I know that some fans will whine that this win hurts our draft position, or it validates Mike Brown, or it sets into motion little personnel movement because season-ending momentum, deliciously mixed with the injury-argument, would be persuasive enough to limit "change". However, it's wins like this that you have to appreciate. It's like a bad tOSU season ending with a beating over the Michigan Wolverines; though ironically, other Buckeyes fans residing north, would say the exact opposite thing.
Browns fans have to start thinking that we're more of a nemesis than the Pittsburgh Steelers -- the proclaimed oldest rivalry in the AFC North, if you don't argue that the Ravens were the original rivalry. Rivalry. Rivalry. Rivalry. Whatever. Not the point.
Again, Browns fans have to hate the Bengals. Have to.
Consider that last year, heading into Week 16 (game #15 for those of you that get confused), Cleveland had a shot at winning the AFC North. The Steelers were 9-5, as were the Browns -- since Cleveland lost both games to the Steelers, the Browns had to finish with the better record to win the division. However, if the Browns win out, they clinch a playoff berth as a wild card seed anyway. Optimism abound; playoffs were there like a massive running lane for an 80-yard run.
On December 23, 2007, the Bengals didn't give two craps about the Browns playoff designs. Instead, the Bengals took a 19-0 lead into half time with Kenny Watson rushing 18 times for 99 yards rushing. In the end, the Browns cut the deficit to five points (19-14), but came up short, along with Chinedum Ndukwe (2), Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall momentum-crushing interceptions. Yes, that's four interceptions for Hall in the past three games; two of the past three really. Not the point.
So, the AFC North was captured by the Steelers, and heading into Week 17 the Browns had to secure a win over the San Francisco 49ers, hoping that the Indianapolis Colts beat the Tennessee Titans. It was a Sunday Night Game and I was on the edge of my seat cheering on Jim Sorgi. Sorgi. The same guy that had Robert Reynolds' thumb jammed into his throat, teaching the sissy world that the beautiful ballerina dance at the bottom of football piles, isn't just about laying on the ground waiting for others to clear out. Not the point.
Considering that the Titans and Browns were tied in the standings for that #6 seed (second wild card spot), the tie-breaker went to the Titans because of their record in common games. So, the Browns needed the Titans to lose.
It didn't help (supposedly, reportedly and all that jazz) that Tony Dungy was in communication with Jeff Fisher:
Collins said on WFAN today that the Titans knew they could kneel down and run out the clock at the end of the game without the Colts calling timeout because "Apparently there was some communication between Jeff (Fisher) and Tony (Dungy)."
The Colts backup players struggled against the Titans starters, and Tennessee earned that sixth playoff seed with a 16-10 win at Indianapolis, concluding a three game winning streak to displace the Cleveland Browns. Only if the Browns would have beaten the Bengals, right?
We're not suggesting that the Browns and Bengals are a rivalry; not anymore, at least. The days of Paul Brown placing an Art Modell voodoo doll on his dresser has long passed. Rivalry between the Bengals and Browns, today, is simply a geographical, in-state, type of thing. However, the Browns haven't recorded a season-sweep of the Bengals since 2002 -- the Bengals have swept the Browns in two of the past four seasons. The Bengals have won seven of the past nine meetings, including a game that all but eliminated the Browns from playoff contention in 2007. And there's a shot that the Browns could be in last place in the division, even after the Bengals started the season with an eight-game losing streak.
Oh, and guess what? The Bengals NOW lead the all-time series, 36-35.
Maybe if both teams starting churning out wins consistently, then this instate Cleveland/Cincinnati rivalry can restart. In the end, there is no rivalry here. Just the Bengals beating the Browns. That's all.