EA Sports has the Cincinnati Bengals winning the game over the Cleveland Browns 30-14 in Madden 2011 simulations. While Bengal Nation would love to bank on virtual reality, the reality that is real says much more.
With the Bengals coach enforcing the "cone of silence," the Bengals had a few tell tale signs that while there is frustration, there is cohesion — the glue that holds teams together.
(Photography courtesy of The Associated Press; Getty Images; Bengals.com; Browns.com; NFL.com; Yahoo.com)
Many are calling the 'Battle of Ohio' the 'Battle of No-hio.' The Browns have not had a victory against a Bengals team that ended up having a winning record at the end of a season since October 30th 1988 — the same (and last) year the Bengals went to the Super Bowl.
In that same season, the Bengals and Browns met in Riverfront Stadium during, guess what, Week 4. The Bengals came away with a 24-17 victory behind two touchdowns from Ickey Woods along with a field goal from Jim Breech. What separated the two teams is what will separate the two this week, defense. The first touchdown in that 1988 meeting came in the form of a fumble recovery for touchdown by Lewis Billups.
While physically, the team from up north was supplanted to be reborn as the Baltimore Ravens, the legacy of the Browns has been retained by the city of their birth in the form of the present day Browns.
One item held onto—by fan and team alike—is the rabid fan section known as the Dog Pound. It is where the fan's passion holds true that the Browns are the Browns of all-time.
While the Browns are named after their venerable (and similarly alienated by Art Modell) coach, Paul Brown, they have to contend with the fact that coach Paul Brown and his family transferred the "Brown Legacy" to the Bengals when the venerable coach founded the Cincinnati Bengals.
That is right, the Browns were named after the Bengals' founder and father of present owner, Mike Brown.
In the Midwest football and baseball are held in much more passionate and high esteem. The one thing that needs to be said to the "coastal fans," you may have your competitive economy devoid of passion but the midwest is where football lives and dies.
Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma all come from the vast section of the country which make up the foundation of college football.
Similarly, the teams that make up the the NFL's backbone and the state that had the Akron Pros and the Canton Bulldogs (which become the Cleveland Bulldogs) is Ohio. Ohio is the birth place of professional baseball (the Cincinnati Redlegs) and professional football (the Akron Pros). Why else would the professional football Hall of Fame be located in Canton? Passion and professionalism.
Consider the following:
1. Ocho Cinco deferring the blame to himself.
2. TO blaming the part of the offense which is supposed to be seen and not heard, the offensive line.
3. Cedric Benson voicing controlled criticism.
Seemingly a group of misfits, the offense has come together to support their defense and admit their short comings. TO is not calling out his friend and quarterback Carson Palmer. Ocho Cinco is acting like the leader the team wanted (and what he wanted) Ocho to be. Cedric Benson is almost looking like a philosopher in his says little but says much statements.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step (see Alcoholics Anonymous), the second is starting the journey towards redemption.
Meanwhile, Cleveland is showing why Eric Mangini was not a good choice (and an even better one is being make by Mike Holmgren in putting off this firing until he establishes himself ala Daniel Wolf).
Expect the Browns' coaching staff to continue the wayward ways except with the passion of this in-state, in-division game, it will still be close.
The keys for the Bengals' defense is to stop the top two position players in Joshua Cribbs and Peyton Hillis. Chances are that the Browns will try to mix up the run defense with Jerome Harrison so expect a lot of plays in the flats by the Browns. The Bengals should have no problem matching up in terms of secondary and linebackers but the run will test the defensive line early and often.
While all of us would love to think that simply not turning the ball over and having Mike Nungent punch through 3 to 5 field goals every week will win the Super Bowl (similar to the Ravens) this will not happen for the Bengals. This is one of the last "tune-up" games for the Bengals before they start playing Super Bowl caliber teams. This game needs to be the breakout game Bengal Nation is waiting (and hoping for) as follows:
1. Stop playing down to the competition. The Browns will play up to the Bengals for all of the aforementioned reasons on previous slides—time to play better.
2. Protect Carson Palmer. The offensive line has lacked timing and mobility this season.
3. Pass Selection by Palmer: Maybe Carson is trying to hard or afraid to be hit but if he is going to throw the ball away, he needs to start preparing that option. The receivers need to start playing for more short yardage situations and this is where Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham can help the Bengals.
4. Establish the Run: This has not complimented the run game as opponents are stuffing the rushing lanes with Cedric Benson 1.1 yards under his yards per carry average last year. One yard per rush makes a tremendous difference when you are carrying the ball 20 or more times. In order to mix up the defense, all facets of the offense must be clicking.;
5. Exploit the Browns' Weaknesses: It may be Eric Wright or the coaches spreading the defense thin but the Ravens and Anquan Boldin exploited the Browns' secondary in a game that should have been won by the Browns. If the Browns continue the mis-coordinated defense along with the morale depression last week, the Bengals will have a great game.
Carson Palmer is looking poor. He is throwing from his back foot (taking away a vast amount of strength) and seemingly lacking mental fortitude. Palmer's choices for targets are poor and the results are that the quarterback rating in his case is starting to look better—at 71.3—than he is performing (if those other four picks would have materialized with the Panthers, he would be in much more statistical trouble). The question for this new father of twins is if he is ready for the adult world of parenting an NFL offense while parenting a family at home. Carson is a conservative and assertive leader and the Bengals have responded to him, including Ocho and TO picking up for their embattled passing marshal. The question now is whether the leader that is being protected by the team can make better choices and be protected. If not, what sits behind him is not an upgrade...
The Browns are unsure of who their quarterback is. Is it Seneca Wallace or Jack Delhomme? Who are the Bengals preparing for? Mangini has subtly put forth that Delhomme may play in double-speak so chances are that Seneca Wallace is the starter. If so, the Bengals will have someone slightly more mobile than Joe Flacco to contend with.
The Bengals need to go back to the preseason and involve Shipley and Gresham more. They are both keys to this teams success and will open up the options for Carson to throw short and play the rough and tumble game that Chris Henry brought the Bengals when he filled the slot.
Not to give video games any credit but pretty much the entire offensive line of the Bengals was downgraded in the last Electronic Arts Madden 2011 roster update. Andre Smith needs to setup and make his case known as not being benched anymore. Dennis Roland is clearly not the option and Smith has shown flashes of brilliance in the pre-season. If Andre can start being consistent, then possibly this could be his breakout game. If something does not give this week, we may not know what Carson really can do because sooner—not later—another injury will crop up.
Ocho and TO are great and they can take this offense to the next level but the Bengals do not need next level right now.
What the Bengals need is to be on the level on offense and this comes by establishing the game from the backfield to the first down marker.
If the Bengals want to establish formidable offense, they need to find the mid-range game fast. Long bombs do not work if the defense expects it.
Bengals win 17-14 with one defensive touchdown by the Bengals' defense.