CLEVELAND — Things are getting pretty spooky in Cleveland today, and it has nothing to do with Halloween.

The Browns had a terrible season.

Riding their first four-game losing streak under coach Kevin Stefanski, the Browns (2-5) enter Monday night’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) in desperation mode.

Another loss to an AFC North rival could do irreparable damage to Cleveland’s playoff hopes and raise more questions about the team’s direction.

“We need a win,” Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett said. “We have to find a way to block out all the noise and distractions and focus on that.”

That always seems easier said than done for the Browns, who had several players yelling at each other in frustration after last week’s 23-20 loss in Baltimore.

“Normal football,” Stefanski said, describing the demeanor after the game.

Normal is a term rarely used for anything related to the Browns, who have beaten the Bengals four straight — Cincinnati rested early to prepare for the playoffs in January during their previous visit — and they need to five times in a row to prevent further skidding this season.

“You just have to find your lane,” Brissett said. “It’s a league of stripes. It’s like a three-point shooter. If you push one, hopefully you’ll see more fall, and that gives you the confidence to know that things are going to start falling your way.”

The Bengals are rolling the other way.

The defending AFC champions have won four of five after an 0-2 start with a 35-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Quarterback Joe Burrow had one of the best games of his career, passing for 481 yards and three touchdowns. He scored another TD on a 1-yard run.

But while the performance bolstered Burrow’s growing resume, one blemish remains: He’s 0-3 against the Browns.

Burrow was unsure this week when asked if he had ever lost three games in a row to an opponent – at any level.

“Probably true,” he said.

Borrow was hesitant to talk about the first meeting between the teams last season, when a 99-yard interception return by cornerback Denzel Ward sparked the Browns’ 41-16 victory over the Bengals.

At the time, it was a high point in 2021 for the Browns, who have fallen apart, dropping five of their last eight games amid controversy.

The Bengals regrouped after the blowout, winning five of seven to capture the division title and advance to the Super Bowl.

They’ve done something similar on a smaller scale this season, but could face some adversity with star receiver Ja’Mar Chase set to miss several games with a hip injury. Chase caught two TD passes from Burrows last week.

The Bengals aren’t nearly as dangerous without Chase, but the Browns know better than to take anything for granted or focus on anyone other than the team directly in front of them.

“This is the Bengals at home. Monday evening. It’s a division rival,” Stefanski said when asked about the importance of the game. “We put on blinders. You can’t look ahead and not look behind.”

Trade conversation

As Tuesday’s trade deadline approaches, speculation is mounting that the Browns could move for running back Kareem Hunt.

The team rejected Hunt’s demand to consider him during practice when he wanted a contract extension. He hasn’t been as involved in Cleveland’s offense lately, fueling the idea that the Browns could move him to bring back assets.

Nick Chubb, the NFL’s leading rusher, didn’t want to consider the possibility of Hunt going elsewhere and Cleveland losing a 1-2 punch.

“Karim is a good friend of mine,” Chubb said. “He’s a great teammate. Great to play, so who knows what will happen? I love playing with Kareem.”

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Browns tight end David Njoku may be a quick healer, but he may need another week to recover from a high ankle sprain suffered against Baltimore.

Njoku has a team-leading 34 catches for 418 yards and has become a reliable playmaker for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was reminded how much the tight end meant to him.

“Then someone even better would mean a lot to me,” Brissett joked this week.

Njoku’s injury, along with Pharoah Brown’s concussion, has left the Browns thin at tight end.

Also, tight end Harrison Bryant was on the injured list this week with a thumb problem.

The Browns often use two and three tight end sets, so Stefanski may be forced to adjust his game plan. Njoku is confident his teammates are stepping up.

“I’m not really too worried about them picking up the slack,” Nyoku said. “I know they work hard every day. They prepare like they’re Tight End 1. So I expect them to pick up right where I left off.”

Running in place

Chase’s injury could force the Bengals to switch to the running back in the neutral position.

While Joe Mixon has been a solid receiver (27 catches) and filled his role as a pass blocker, Cincinnati’s quarterback has had limited success. Mixon had 58 yards on 17 carries last week and is yet to crack the top 100 in 2022. He averages just 3.3 yards per carry.

Mixon, 26, was frustrated — he scheduled the only meeting between the players with the offensive line — but said he’s seeing progress.

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