CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) – The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns kick off their 2023 regular seasons with the 100th edition of the Battle of Ohio at 1 p.m.
Deshaun Watson begins his first full season with Cleveland after the Browns quarterback was suspended for the first 11 games in 2022.
Watson looked rusty when he returned, but the three-time Pro Bowler had a strong training camp and has taken control of Cleveland’s offense.
Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow missed much of the summer after injuring his calf, but Cincinnati’s star quarterback will play.
The Browns will play four of their first five games at home, and will face each of its AFC North rivals in the first four weeks.
Cleveland is just 1-15-1 in home season openers since 1999.
CINCINNATI (14-5) at CLEVELAND (7-10)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS
SERIES RECORD: Bengals lead 52-47.
LAST MEETING: Bengals beat Browns 23-10 on Dec. 11 in Cincinnati.
BENGALS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Joe Burrow missed most of training camp with a strained calf muscle. He was sidelined July 27 and didn’t practice again until Aug. 30. All indications are that the Pro Bowler will play. On Thursday, Burrow became the highest-paid player in the NFL, agreeing to a five-year, $275 million contract extension, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The contract includes more than $219 million guaranteed, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it hadn’t been announced.
BROWNS PLAYER TO WATCH: Unlike last season when he was suspended, QB Deshaun Watson begins 2023 on the field. Watson was banned 11 games by the NFL in 2022 for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy after more than two dozen women accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior during massage therapy sessions. Watson looked rusty when he return, going 3-3 in six starts.
KEY MATCHUP: Bengals LT Orlando Brown Jr. vs. Browns All-Pro DE Myles Garrett. The Bengals signed the 6-foot-8, 345-pound Brown in the offseason to protect Burrow’s blind side. He’s had previous matchups with Kansas City against Garrett, who has had his most sacks (11) against Cincinnati and gotten to Burrow eight times.
KEY INJURIES: Bengals DE Joseph Ossai (ankle) is out. … Browns CB Denzel Ward (concussion) could be a game-time decision.
SERIES NOTES: The 100th installment of the “Battle of Ohio.” … After losing seven straight games to Cincinnati, Cleveland has won eight of the past 10 meetings. … Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is 5-1 against the Bengals. … The matchup includes a family tie as Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan is the son of Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan. … This is Stefanski’s first season opener at home in four years.