The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns are so closely related, it only makes sense that they became rivals. They are the only NFL teams in Ohio, they were both established by Paul Brown, and currently both are trying to make their way up the division standings.
This is the only division rivalry where the Bengals have the upper hand. Since the Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999, the Bengals have swept the Browns eight times. The Bengals are 27-15 in that span and have a commanding lead on the series.
The Browns have been able to secure three of the last four meetings, but the Bengals have other plans.
Regular season series: Bengals lead 51-42
Longest streak: Browns, 7 (1992-1995), Bengals (2014-2017)
Current Streak: Bengals, 1
Last five seasons: Bengals lead 7-3
The Browns have been the laughing stock of the NFL for the last two decades, but things were quite different before the merger.
Under Paul Brown’s leadership, the Browns were one of the best teams in the AAFC and in the NFL. From 1946-1955, the Browns won four AAFC Championships and three NFL Championships. They would win one more NFL Championship in 1964, which was the last season of the pre-Super Bowl era.
For a team with such a rich pre-Super Bowl history, this team has failed to appear in the Super Bowl.
In the mid-1960s, now years removed from his time in Cleveland, Paul Brown traveled south to coach the Bengals. The two teams were placed in the AFC Central following the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, and a rivalry was born.
Brown, who was fired by the Browns’ owner in 1963, refused a post-game handshake with his former assistant turned head coach Blanton Collier.
The two teams were nearly evenly matched in through the 1980s, with the Bengals leading the series 20-19 by that point. The 1982 strike might have played a part in the Bengals’ slight edge, as they won the only matchup between the two teams that season. That remains the only season since 1970 in which the two teams haven’t squared off twice a year.
The 1990s were looking to be a better decade for the Browns, as Bill Belichick won seven in a row against the in-state rivals. But tragedy struck the city of Cleveland in 1995 as the Browns moved to Baltimore.
The city of Cleveland was granted a second iteration of their Browns, owned by the Haslam family, but it hasn’t been the same. From 1999 to 2017, the Bengals were 26-12 against the Browns.
The Browns did sweep the Bengals in 2002, which was the same year of the Haslam’s Browns’ only playoff appearance. It was also the year the Bengals went 2-14 for the first time.
But the Bengals hired Marvin Lewis and rose; the Browns declined from there.
Tired of being eliminated from the playoffs year after year, the Browns have been trying very hard to build a winning franchise. Things have looked good for them since 2018, when they swept Lewis for the only time his career.
Things were supposed to be better in 2019, when head Coach Freddie Kitchens was going to lead Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and other stars to victory. The result was a 6-10 season, with a season finale loss to the Bengals who only had one win entering that game.
The Browns fired Kitchens and hired Kevin Stefanski in the offseason. Things are looking as good for the Browns as they ever have before. Then again, that seems to be the narrative every offseason.
Things are also looking better for the Bengals with Joe Burrow and a brand new defense.
With all the changes on paper, the two teams will have to prove it on the football field.