Ohio's two professional football teams are both off to 0-3 starts, but the Cincinnati Bengals' latest loss at least has them encouraged that they're headed in the right direction.
The Cleveland Browns, on the other hand, don't seem to know quite where they're headed - or who's going to lead them.
The Bengals will try to take the positives from a tight loss to the defending Super Bowl champs into their matchup Sunday with the visiting Browns, who appear to be on the verge of a quarterback controversy.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Bengals –3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Bengals –3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Though winless, Cincinnati has improved each week since an opening loss in Baltimore in which it gained only 154 yards and didn't score an offensive touchdown. The Bengals didn't figure to have much of a chance Sunday in East Rutherford against the New York Giants, but gave the reigning Super Bowl champions all they could handle.
They took a 20-16 lead late in the fourth quarter, and though they ultimately fell 26-23 in overtime, the Bengals found reason for optimism.
Cincinnati gained 347 yards against the Giants' vaunted defense, just 22 fewer than it had in the first two games combined.
"A lot of positives,'' receiver Chad Ocho Cinco said. "A lot of good things. A couple of missed assignments across the board - you know, it was always one thing on every play, which it usually is when plays break down. But we had a lot of positives, man. We looked really good on film.''
Any film of Cleveland's season would likely be in the horror genre.
The Browns have the NFL's worst offense (207.3 yards per game) after finishing with the league's ninth-ranked unit (360.1 ypg) last season behind Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson.
So far, Anderson hasn't looked anything like the player who threw 29 touchdowns passes in 2007. He's thrown for two scores and five interceptions through three games, and his 43.5 passer rating is 31st in the league.
Anderson's struggles have prompted speculation that 2007 first-round pick Brady Quinn will take over. While coach Romeo Crennel said Wednesday that Anderson would start under center against the Bengals, he didn't rule out Quinn seeing action - perhaps soon.
"We have to look at all of the positions,'' Crennel said. "We'll definitely try to get the other guy ready and get him ready to go and we'll see how it progresses from there.''
Quinn has only attempted eight regular-season passes, none of them this season.
"If we decided to go with (Quinn),'' Crennel said, "we'd just have to put it on the fact that what we've seen in practice and what we feel he's able to do.
"Because there's no hard evidence that says he'd have more success.''
Cincinnati doesn't have a quarterback controversy brewing, but it would like to see more production from Carson Palmer, a two-time Pro Bowler who threw for 228 yards total in the first two games.
Palmer looked sharp against New York, though, going 27-for-39 for 286 yards and a touchdown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
"We were much sharper in a lot of areas in the passing game,'' Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "We still have to work it and make sure we're being exact and give (Palmer) the opportunity to deliver the ball where he thinks it ought to be delivered.''
Houshmandzadeh had 12 catches for 146 yards last week to help Palmer get going, but the flamboyant Ocho Cinco has only eight catches for 88 yards this season and hasn't scored.
He has four career 100-yard games against the Browns, including an 11-catch, 209-yard performance with a pair of touchdowns on Sept. 16, 2007, in a 51-45 loss at Cleveland.
Palmer threw six touchdowns in that memorable game and Anderson five, marking the third time in NFL history that two quarterbacks threw at least five TD passes in the same game.
The Bengals won the rematch 19-14 on Dec. 23, a loss which ultimately kept the Browns out of the postseason. Cincinnati has won four straight at home against Cleveland.
Whoever loses this week will be alone at the bottom of the AFC North with little chance of making the playoffs
"I mean, what better week to get a win than against the Browns, you know?'' Ocho Cinco said. "What better week?''
Ocho Cinco isn't the only wideout who's failing to live up to his reputation. Browns receiver Braylon Edwards caught 16 touchdowns in 2007, but hasn't pulled one in this season and has dropped numerous Anderson passes.
Edwards, who caught four TD passes against the Bengals last season, suited up last week after being listed as questionable with a shoulder injury. He is expected to play Sunday.
BETTING TRENDS FOR THIS GAME
All games in this series since 1992
CLEVELAND is 16-10 against the spread versus CINCINNATI since 1992
CLEVELAND is 14-12 straight up against CINCINNATI since 1992
14 of 26 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
CINCINNATI is 3-1 against the spread versus CLEVELAND over the last 3 seasons
CINCINNATI is 3-1 straight up against CLEVELAND over the last 3 seasons
2 of 4 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at CINCINNATI since 1992
CLEVELAND is 7-6 against the spread versus CINCINNATI since 1992
CINCINNATI is 7-6 straight up against CLEVELAND since 1992
9 of 13 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at CINCINNATI over the last 3 seasons.
CINCINNATI is 2-0 against the spread versus CLEVELAND over the last 3 seasons
CINCINNATI is 2-0 straight up against CLEVELAND over the last 3 seasons
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
KEY INJURIES FOR THIS GAME
[OG] Ryan Tucker missed last game %27?%27 - Hip - 09/14/08
[LB] Antwan Peek expected to miss rest of season. - Knee - 09/04/08
[OG] Lennie Friedman IR - Shoulder - 08/30/08
[DE] Robaire Smith IR - Achilles - 09/15/08
[WR] Joe Jurevicius is expected to miss first 6 games. - Knee - 08/28/08
[CB] Daven Holly IR - Knee - 07/25/08
[SS] Sean Jones is expected to miss at least four weeks. - Knee - 09/10/08
[WR] Donte' Stallworth missed last game, "?". - Quad - 09/14/08
[RB] Jamal Lewis is probable Sunday vs. Baltimore - Ankle - 09/17/08
[SS] Dexter Jackson is downgraded to expected to miss - Thumb - 09/17/08
[TE] Ben Utecht is downgraded to doubtful - Chest - 09/15/08
[WR] Chris Henry expected to miss first four games - Suspension - 08/31/08
[S] Herana-Daze Jones is downgraded to expected to miss - Hamstring - 09/17/08
[CB] Johnathan Joseph left last game, "?". - Ankle - 09/15/08
(!) [QB] Carson Palmer is probable. - Ankle - 09/17/08
[RB] Jeremi Johnson IR - Knee - 09/04/08
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