Remember Week 1 of the NFL?
I know it feels like a long time ago, but do your best. Can you recall the hype around the Philadelphia "dream team"? The questions about the ages of the Pittsburgh and Baltimore defenses? Do you remember analysts penciling the Jets for a playoff spot?
Do you remember all of the praise for Colt McCoy?
This was going to be the year the former Texas quarterback took a step forward. He had proven his leadership in college, and in 2011 his physical skills and mastery of the NFL game was supposed to catch up to his chutzpah.
This was the season Colt McCoy's talent was supposed to match his toughness.
It has not. The Browns are last in the AFC North with a record of 4-6 and McCoy ranks in the bottom half of quarterbacks in yards, touchdowns and completion percentage.
Let's go back to Week 1 of the NFL season once more.
Do you remember the doubt swirling around the Cincinnati Bengals?
Carson Palmer retired to get away from the team. Marvin Lewis appeared to be a lame-duck coach whose job was saved only by the lockout. The team was starting Andy Dalton, a rookie quarterback, and Jay Gruden, a rookie offensive coordinator, was calling the plays.
For the Cincinnati Bengals, the 2011 NFL season was supposed to be an exercise in disaster control.
Just look at the Bengals now.
Cincinnati is squarely in the playoff race, and Dalton plays more like a veteran than a rookie. Mike Brown traded Palmer to the Oakland Raiders for more than any other team would dream of and Gruden calls creative plays and maximizes the talent on the roster, including the phenomenal wide receiver A.J. Green.
Since we are discussing recent history, it is only fair to point out that history favors the Cleveland Browns over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12.
Since the 2000 season, Cincinnati and Cleveland have split the battle of Ohio seven times.
History is probably wrong on this one, as the teams appear to be two ships passing in the night.
This is hardly a trap game for the Bengals as they are looking to bounce back after two consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and the Browns are sliding, losing three of their last four.
Cleveland has little to play for, and Cincinnati is hungry for a win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Oh, Week 1, how magical you were. Every fan and analyst was smart and sure of his prognostications. The Colt McCoy led Browns were to spoil contenders' seasons and the team would take a step forward. The hapless Cincinnati Bengals would not shake the albatross of the Carson Palmer fiasco and struggle to win more than three games.
The NFL landscape has changed from Week 1 to Week 12. Will the Browns turn the season around? Will the Bengals make the unlikeliest of playoff runs?
Only history will tell.
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