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Bengals hope to get Hue in focus

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The upshot is that rookie wide receiver could make his first NFL start if the Bengals start out with three wide receivers since they only have four available after James Wright (knee) joined  (hamstring) in the out category.

Wright is coming off microfracture knee surgery and Cincinnati Bengals jersey and head coach Marvin Lewis indicated after Friday’s walk-through that he’s sore. As it has been since Wright’s surgery it looks to be a week-to-week case and he could be back for the final three games. Core is coming off his fourth NFL game, when he had his first two catches and No. 1 was a 50-yarder.

They face old friend Hue Jackson for the second time in seven weeks in the role of the villain. After drilling the Browns, 31-17, in Jackson’s return to Paul Brown Stadium, to stay in the middle of the AFC North race, the Bengals are now down to their last strands of hope against a Browns team emboldened by a bye, a home game in favorable weather for an underdog, and the return of quarterback Robert Griffin III in their desperate bid to avoid an 0-16 season.

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The Bengals.com Media Roundtable agrees that the Bengals have too much talent to lose to the Browns on what is supped to be a snowy afternoon of one to three inches. But ever mindful of Jackson’s creativity now magnified by an extra week of prep, most also agree that it will be a tractor-pull rather than a coronation in the 47-season state rivalry

The one dissenting voice comes from Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, the estimable Browns reporter since 1984 who has carried more bodies from the Battle of Ohio than anyone in the room. Christening the almost unbelievable travails of the Browns “The Hundred Years War,” Grossi sees a Bengals rout on the plains of Paul and Jimmy Brown at the moat of Groza and Graham.

But back-to-back sacks by Pro Bowl defensive tackle got the ball back with 5:55 left in the game and ended all doubt the Bengals would go to 5-7-1 and continue to hang by a strand in the AFC North.

It was supposed to be the Bengals running game that stole Sunday’s show and they did rack up 152 rushing yards heading into the fourth quarter. But after backup quarterback Kevin Hogan gashed them for 104 yards back in October, Browns running back Isaiah Crowell gouged them for 113 yards on 10 carries.

The Browns hadn’t scored a touchdown against the Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium since 2013 and it took the Browns nearly seven minutes into the second half to break the skein. After blanketing the Browns in the first half on 72 yards, Crowell got 42 yards on one shot, a draw play that set up quarterback Robert Griffin III’s one-yard touchdown run to cap an 80-yard drive with 8:11 left in the third quarter.

But no one could figure out if Pryor told Guenther that before the game in October. Or told him Sunday. Or told him in his two months Pryor was a Bengal quarterback in the spring of 2015. Apparently it stemmed from Cincinnati’s 31-17 win over the Browns back in October.

Whatever it was, Jones had the last word. Pryor came into the game with more than 60 catches and 800 yards. But his fairytale rise from transplanted quarterback to leading receiver in less than a year went off the rails Sunday with one catch for three yards on three targets.

“I have the utmost respect for Hue,” said Jones of Browns head coach Hue Jackson, the former Bengals assistant. “But certain bleep I don’t tolerate. Young punks, really. Suburban kid that wants to act like he’s the toughest thing in the world now because he caught a couple of balls. He’s just arrogant with his teammates.”

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