The Bengals head into their Week 12 matchup against the Brown with a 6-4 record and are currently holding the sixth seed, the last wildcard spot, in the AFC. They're hosting the Cleveland Browns, who have a 4-6 record and have five of their last seven games.
However, despite what some may think, this is not a trap game for the Bengals. It's a huge game for the Bengals.
If the Bengals were to lose on Sunday to the Browns, they would have virtually little to no shot at going to the playoffs as the AFC North champions. They still have a small chance of doing that, but only if they beat the Browns and then defeat the Steelers and Ravens as well as win their non-division games.
If they lose to the Browns, they would likely slip out of the sixth seed in the AFC and be replaced by the Broncos, if they beat the Chargers, or the Jets, if they beat the Bills. The Bengals should head into this game knowing that it is just as important, if not more important for them to win than it has been over the past two weeks (as the Bengals have lost, the next division game's importance went up exponentially).
It's not like the Browns will be push overs either. While they have a vulnerable defense against the run, they have the best pass defense in the league and if the Bengals find themselves in a situation where they need to throw the ball to catch up, like they did in the last two weeks, they may be in a little trouble, especially if A.J. Green sits out again.
Offensively the Browns are ranked at No. 23 in passing offense and at No. 29 in running offense. The Bengals defense should be more than capable of stopping the Browns after facing the Steelers and Ravens' offense in back-to-back weeks, but the Bengals secondary is extremely weak after losing Leon Hall for the season and we all saw what a guy with speed, like Torrey Smith, can do to the team's secondary. Joshua Cribbs has speed.
Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth says that the Bengals isn't concerned that some believe this may be a trap game (I don't think it is). He says nothing has changed about this team since week one and since week one, they've taken things a day at a time.
"All season long we have played every single game one game at a time," he said. "And that hasn’t changed."
Since a trap game is usually one right before the playoffs that would get a team into the post season or a game right after one against a rival, this doesn't really qualify in my opinion. This is the first of many games that the Bengals need to win to get into the playoffs and the Browns are a rival team.
Hopefully they don't give the Browns a shot at playing the spoiler on Sunday by thinking about the Steelers in Week 13 or playing down the their competition. Based on what we've seen from the Steelers so far this season, I don't think they'll let that happen.