When the week one matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns commences on Sunday, both teams will get a glimpse of where they're at, in terms of their respective rebuilding processes. The Bengals began their process this tumultuous offseason, both by bringing in younger veterans through free agency and the draft, as well as using the odd addage "addition by subtraction", choosing not to bring back players like Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Though they've kept their head coach that they've had for the past nine seasons, the Bengals have new faces everywhere, including at quarterback.
The Browns seem to have been in rebuilding mode really since they re-entered the NFL back in 1999. But it most recently began again with the hiring of Mike Holmgren as Team President. Through Holmgren, the Browns feel that they have found their franchise quarterback in Colt McCoy (drafted in the third round in 2010), as well as their head coach of the future in newly-hired Pat Shurmur. Some feel that this team is poised to take the next step in a year or two, and those associated with the Browns seem to feel pretty good about themselves.
Unfortunately, for both teams, neither of them have gotten off to a good start to their respective seasons in recent history. The Bengals have been notoriously slow on opening day, posting just a 3-5 record under Marvin Lewis. Historically speaking, the Bengals seem to come out flat on most opening days, making turnovers and penalties while scoring few points (see Opening Day 2009, versus the Denver Broncos). With a much younger team and a lockout-shortened offseason to prepare, it's not out of the realm of possibility that we could see more of the same from the boys in stripes.
While the Bengals have had their struggles on Opening Day, the Browns have been absolutely dismal. According to the beloved ESPN AFC North blogger, James Walker, the last time the Cleveland Browns won on Opening Day was in 2004, when they beat the Baltimore Ravens.
Historically, the Browns are awful in season openers. The team is 1-11 in Week 1 games since returning to the NFL in 1999. The Chris Palmer era, Butch Davis era, Romeo Crennel era and Eric Mangini era all got off to losing starts.
Walker goes on to say that this year's opener against the Bengals is as good of an opportunity as any to end this awful streak that they've been on. Cincinnati's rebuilding process and youthful roster that I mentioned earlier playing into his opinion.
Oddly enough, these two teams haven't faced each other much at all in the first week of the season. Since 1999, The only time they faced off in week one was in 2005 and the Bengals won that matchup, 27-13. They have faced off four times in that same span on week two of the season, though. It seems the schedule-makers usually put round one of the "Battle of Ohio" in the first month of the NFL season, with round two usually being in the last month or so of the season.
Based on these stats, it looks like something has got to give this Sunday.
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