Browns Can Clinch

The Cleveland Browns did not come close to totaling 51 points over their final four games last season. So when they scored that many against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2 of this season, it certainly opened some eyes.

It turns out that impressive showing wasn't a fluke, and it may have been the catalyst for a Browns team that can now clinch a playoff spot by completing a season sweep of the Bengals on Sunday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Cleveland -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 43.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

There were low expectations for Cleveland (9-5) in 2007 after it finished 4-12 last season, when it totaled just 37 points in losing its last four games. After a 34-7 loss to Pittsburgh in their season opener - a defeat that led to starting quarterback Charlie Frye getting traded two days later - the Browns seemed to be in for yet another tough season.

The following week, though, Cleveland gave Derek Anderson the nod and he completed 20 of 33 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-45 win over Cincinnati on Sept. 16.

Anderson continued to play well - he was named a first alternate for the Pro Bowl - and the Browns enter Week 16 tied with Pittsburgh for first place in the AFC North. They can clinch their first playoff berth since 2002 with another win over the Bengals (5-9) or a Tennessee loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

"We've talked about it for several weeks. Let's just win," Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel told the team's official Web site. "If we win and take care of our job and business then we'll get to where we want to be. Really, it hasn't changed. We're a just a little bit closer."

Browns fans were calling for rookie Brady Quinn to get a chance after Frye was traded to Seattle, but Anderson has become more than a fill-in and is leading a Cleveland offense that is ranked fifth in the NFL in scoring at 26.3 points per game.

Anderson is fourth in the AFC with 3,384 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes. Maybe the best thing he did last Sunday was avoid committing a turnover, having to throw in brutal weather conditions on a snow-covered field as Cleveland beat Buffalo 8-0.

Anderson has two big-play targets in Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. On Tuesday, Edwards was named to his first Pro Bowl, while Winslow joined Anderson as a first alternate.

Edwards and returner Josh Cribbs are the first Browns players to be selected to the Pro Bowl in six seasons. Edwards' 1,170 yards receiving ranks fifth in the NFL, and his 13 TDs put him in a tie for the franchise record set by Gary Collins in 1963.

Winslow has developed into one of the NFL's best tight ends, catching a team-best 71 passes - two more than Edwards - for 971 yards. Cribbs, meanwhile, leads the league in kickoff return average (30.9 yards) and has taken two kicks back for touchdowns.

In Cleveland's first matchup with Cincinnati, Edwards and Winslow combined for 14 receptions for 246 yards and three TDs while Cribbs averaged 36.6 yards on five kickoff returns.

The Bengals went into that game expecting to contend for the AFC North title after opening the season with a win over Baltimore, but they went on to lose four straight.

"There has been a lot of football, so it's hard to put it on one game," Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. "But we lost the football game up there. We had the opportunity to put them away, and we didn't."

A 20-13 loss in San Francisco last Saturday night resigned the Bengals to their first losing season in Lewis' five years as their coach.

Cincinnati's defense is still a problem, but its offense hasn't been nearly as good as expected. The Bengals haven't reached the 20-point mark in any of their last three games despite boasting a talented group of skill-position players.

"It's been a long, frustrating season," Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer said.

Palmer has thrown for 3,700 yards and 22 TDs, but his 17 interceptions are one shy of matching his career high set as a rookie in 2004. Palmer still has one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league in Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but he has been hurt by a mediocre running game.

Rudi Johnson, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards in each of the previous three seasons, has run for just 497 yards while averaging 2.9 per carry. The Bengals rank among the worst in the AFC with 94.6 rushing yards per game and 3.7 per carry.

Houshmandzadeh is the lone Pro Bowl representative for Cincinnati. He has caught 11 TD passes and leads the NFL in receptions with 101, giving him a chance to become the first Bengals player in the team's 40-year history to have the most receptions in the league.

"I was excited, kind of sort of, but I wasn't as excited as I thought I would be," Houshmandzadeh said of his selection to the Pro Bowl. "If - and this is the truth - honestly if they said 'T.J. you cant go to the Pro Bowl but if you guys win these next two games you can go to the playoffs,' I'd take that."

Chad Johnson, who has 85 catches for 1,265 yards and six TDs, is a first alternate. He had 11 receptions for 209 yards and two touchdowns versus Cleveland in Week 2.

The Bengals have won three straight against the Browns at home since a 22-14 loss on Dec. 28, 2003. That defeat kept Cincinnati out of the playoffs.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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