Bengals at Browns -- Week 6

Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium (grass, outdoors)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m., ET (CBS)

Spread: Bengals by 3

Forecast: 65 degrees, partly cloudy, slight chance of rain

Records: Browns (Overall: 0-5, AFC North 0-2), Bengals (Overall: 3-2, AFC North: 1-1)

Past results: Two most recent regular-season meetings:  Sept. 16, 2012: Bengals 27, Browns 20; Nov. 27, 2011: Bengals 23, Browns 20. Series record: Bengals hold 42-36 lead (13-3 in last 16).

What matters: This is the last chance for coach Pat Shurmur to show the team is heading in the right direction before new owner Jimmy Haslam is approved by the NFL on Tuesday. Haslam has stated that he won’t make personnel decisions until after the season, but speculation persists that Shurmur could lose his job at the bye week if the Browns remain winless or have made no progress. The Browns can only hope that history repeats itself as it tries to avoid a franchise-long 12-game losing streak. Their previous 11-game drought was broken at home against the Bengals in 1975. The offense should score. The Browns are averaging 20 points a game compared to 12.9 in 2011 and they moved the ball well against the Bengals in Week 2. But they’re destined to set a new mark for futility if a defense yielding 30.5 points a game in the past four cannot elevate its level of play.

Who matters: The return of top CB Joe Haden from suspension was desperately needed. He bolsters a secondary that holds a lot of responsibility for the 0-5 record. Young DTs Billy Winn and John Hughes are also under pressure. Winn and LB Craig Robertson have been two of the most pleasant surprises in 2012. The expected loss of DT Ahtyba Rubin (calf) and continued absence of fellow starter Phil Taylor (pectoral surgery) will result in both Winn and Hughes starting. The Browns were shredded for 200 rushing yards by Ahmad Bradshaw alone last week; a repeat of such shoddy run defense against Cincinnati will doom them to defeat. QB Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson enjoyed their finest games against the Bengals in Week 2 and there is no reason to believe they won’t find success again.

Key matchups: LG Jason Pinkston vs. RDT Geno Atkins. Depending on the formation, all the linemen could be partly responsible for keeping Atkins off Weeden. But Pinkston will line up much of the time across from Atkins, who is tied for third in the NFL with six sacks -- an impressive statistics for a tackle. The Bengals are tied for the league lead with 18 sacks, so Pinkston must do his part. The Browns held the fierce Giants pass rush without a sack last Sunday and have allowed just nine in five games. CB Joe Haden vs. WR A.J. Gree. Haden is giving up nearly six inches to Green, who can simply outleap defenders in blanket coverage. Green has stated that Haden is among his toughest matchups. Haden has indeed handled him well, but Green has burned him and the Browns with one big play in every game. Green has caught short and long passes consistently this season. If Haden defends him well solo, it will allow the safeties to concentrate on preventing WR Andrew Hawkins or TE Jermaine Gresham from making an impact.

Injuries of note: The sigh of relief coming from Berea upon the return to practice Thursday of MLB D’Qwell Jackson (concussion) could be heard in Cincinnati. But the Browns are still missing Rubin, which will force Winn and Hughes to start. The continued absence of WRs Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), Travis Benjamin (hamstring) and Jordon Norwood (foot) leaves the Browns with three players at that position. Josh Cribbs told the media that WR Josh Cooper has been promoted from the practice squad, but the Browns denied that move has been made. If Cooper is not in uniform, look for increased playing time for TEs Jordan Cameron and Alex Smit. Cameron boasts the skills of a possession receiver.

Inside stuff: Shurmur has grown increasingly testy with the media, which has perceived him as lacking the ability to handle second-guessing. He was lambasted for replacing RB Trent Richardson with pass-catching specialist Chris Ogbonnaya on 3rd-and-1 deep in Giants territory at the end of the first half last Sunday and calling a pass play. The play resulted in a pick that turned a 17-10 lead into a 17-17 tie. The Browns never recovered. Shurmur was quite defensive when asked about the play stating that the call wouldn’t have been questioned if it had been successful.

Connections: Browns DE Frostee Rucker was signed by the Browns as a free agent in the offseason after playing five years in Cincinnati. Bengals C Jeff Faine was drafted by the Browns in 2003 and played three years in Cleveland.

Stat you should know: The Bengals rank 28th in the NFL in yielding a completion percentage of 67.5 and in interceptions with just one (registered by former Brown Chris Crocker). But their 18 sacks is tied for the top, which means the Browns can move the ball through the air if they give Weeden time to throw.

Looking ahead: The Browns might be an underdog in every game the rest of the season, but they have also played well enough in most games to be considered a threat against anyone. They travel to Indianapolis and play San Diego at home after facing Cincinnati. Those are both winnable games, particularly with the return of Haden and starting DT Phil Taylor, who could return from the PUP list in time for the Chargers game. The offense is averaging a respectable 20 points a game, so it’s the defense that has prevented the Browns from breaking into the win column.

Prediction: Browns 27, Bengals 24

Stay dialed in on the Cleveland Browns on Twitter at @CBSBrowns throughout the season with on-site updates from RapidReports correspondent Marty Gitlin.