There’s not much to celebrate for Cincinnati Bengals fans right now. Sure, they won their first game of the season against the N.Y. Jets last week. But there’s not a lot to cheer about when a victory only inches you up to a 1-11 record after having lost every other game this year.
That’s why this Sunday is so important for the team — and maybe even the city. It’s the Battle of Ohio.
Sure, Cleveland isn’t doing great. But, hey, they still have a mathematical shot at the playoffs with a 5-7 record and the (slight, really slight) possibility of a wildcat spot. Anyone betting on it?
But before we start taking digs at Cleveland, let’s get back to Cincinnati and the Battle of Ohio. The team really needs a win. I mean not just because it would give them a two-game winning streak. Well, that would be a good thing. But because the city needs to see another win.
It might just be the equivalent of the Super Bowl for a city in desperate need of something, anything. As the Cincinnatti Enquirer’s editorial board put it, the “Cincinnati Bengals are bad. Historically bad.”
Despite the scathing opening lines of the editorial (and the middle and the end), it was relatively positive in a warped sort of a way. At one point the editorial board says of the team’s management, “There doesn’t seem to be any long-term strategy.”
What? Is there a medium-range strategy? A short-term strategy? How about a one-quarter strategy? (And did they really need to couch the sentence with “seem to be?”)
Last weekend’s win did have a bright spot for the Bengals (other than the victory) – the return of QB Andy Dalton after being sidelined for three games. He had a fairly impressive game completing 22 of 37 passes for 243 yards. And let’s not forget about a TD pass.
And then there was the Bengals’ defence. If there is a bright spot – and Cincinnati fans really hope there is – it’s here on defence. The Jets managed just two field goals.
So, the Browns likely won’t have a walk in the park come Sunday. For one thing, they will have to find a way to protect QB Baker Mayfield. He’s already been sacked 32 times this season.
But if he can find a way to get to Odell Beckham, Jr., who has had only a couple of TDs this season, Cincinnati will have their work cut out for them. And let’s not forget about Jarvis Landry, the other receiver Beckham can go to.
It may not be pretty. But the Battle of Ohio is one of sports’ most intense rivalries. And for that, Sunday’s game will be worth the watch.