There is a rumor going around that a professional football game will be played this weekend between a couple of teams from Ohio. I suppose there will be a few people who are genuinely interested in the outcome, but by and large, it's an event that is purely played out for money.
There should be very little ramifications to anyone's immediate future outside of the game's participants on Sunday. Some of those guys don't mind playing for the team they're on, and others can see themselves on different teams next year, but all of them still need to put in quality play "on tape". The tape, you see, is what teams watch to evaluate a player's worth, and here in America, that means money. So while everyone involved might tell you that they're playing the season out for their teammates and the fans, really they're playing for the loot.
I, on the other hand, receive not a cent for these football musings, but I carry on, occasionally sidetracked, but largely undeterred. So while I admit that I nearly forgot to do this week's preview, and even considered skipping it briefly after a large dinner and some wine, here I am laboring through it anyway. I do it for you, gentle reader, because I love you.
Browns offense vs. Bengals defense
The way the Bengals will prepare for the Browns depends on which quarterback they trot out there. If it's Jake Delhomme, all the Bengals have to do is sit back and wait for the turnovers to show up. Delhomme is arguably the most overpaid player in the NFL, unless he gets paid bonuses for interceptions. If it's Seneca Wallace that plays, the Bengals will have to keep him in the pocket, guard the deep ball and limit the explosive plays. And if it's Colt McCoy, they should play more shallow in their coverage and not lose containment on quarterback runs. Honestly though, it doesn't matter that much because the Browns would rather ignore the quarterback position altogether if they could.
Their warthog-like bruiser Peyton Hillis has blossomed into a surprisingly effective every-down back for the Brownies. Not only can he slug his way to a 100-yard game being hard to tackle and showing decent speed for his size, but has good hands too and is a nice option in the passing game. The only legitimate knock on Hillis this season has been his league-leading eight fumbles. For the Bengals to win, they will need to bait the Browns into giving the ball away with either erratic quarterback play, or loose ball-handling by Hillis.
Bengals offense vs. Browns defense
The Browns don't feature any superstar defenders but they play hard and somehow remain competitive. Despite ranking in the bottom half in both stopping the run and the pass, Cleveland is 11th in points allowed. Since they face a team that only scores points when it matters the least, the Browns have a good chance to improve on that statistical success of keeping the opposition out of the end-zone.
If the Bengals are going to reverse their own trend and put up some decent points early on, they have a good shot at breaking their 10-game curse. It's not impossible. Avoid killer penalties, limit turnovers, play-call sensibly and execute to even a minor degree and a win can come against a good team, never mind a five-win one. The problem is, of course, managing all of those things simultaneously—a feat that has proven to be nearly impossible for this current group.
I have no more magic equations that can result in a boost in offensive production. The team knows what it has and what it can do, it just chooses to ignore those facts and consistently do the opposite of what makes the most sense. They haven't suffered many injuries on offense, they've only suffered some form of brain damage that keeps them from winning. It's very sad really.
However, I won't cheat you, noble reader, and you shall receive at least this nugget of analysis: get the ball to Chad Ochocinco more—he's pretty good. In all this misery and letdown, Chad still has runs routes that perhaps only two other receivers in the league could manage. His hands haven't worsened, and his feet continue to dazzle, but the one thing that keeps him from being as great as he used to be is that he inexplicably isn't on the same page with his quarterback of the last eight years, Carson Palmer. Chad is still an elite receiver but he can't connect often enough with the other half that makes a completed pass possible; fix the arm, and the hand will follow.
So for those of you still out there, you might see a win this week—that is, if you can see it at all. The Cleveland Browns are not an imposing enemy. They have played moments of inspired ball this season and are on the upswing as a franchise, but for now, they're still the Browns. Sadly, for the Bengals, they're, well...still the Bengals.
Browns 7, Bengals 6
Mojokong—fading into an afterthought.