The Cincinnati Bengals have been a mess this year. One week, Chad Johnson is the most problematic player in the league. The next week, Rudi Johnson is suffering his third hamstring injury of the season. The week after that, T.J. Houshmandzadeh catches a pair of touchdowns from Carson Palmer in defeat. The week after that, Palmer throws a pair or a trio of game-costing interceptions. And, most recently, both C. Johnson and Houshmandzadeh have reportedly been verbally berating Palmer all season, and the team would be better off without either of them.
What's the real story with the Bengals? Isn't it ironic that when the Bengals' lose a couple of key members from their offensive line and the Browns make several upgrades, including former Bengal Eric Steinbach, that the tides for both teams changed? After all, neither team has an overwhelming defense to compensate for shortcomings on offense.
Although the Bengals have been down, Palmer is still "fired up" about this week's game. This is the same Palmer who was outplayed last week by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill. But, it's also the same Palmer who has picked apart the Browns in almost every chance he's had. Even earlier this season, when the Browns defeated the Bengals, Palmer threw for six touchdowns. That may play a role in these comments from Palmer this week:
"There's no pressure on us. We can come out and sling it all over the place and try to knock these guys off the pedestal they're on right now."
"Really, they slowed us down (this year). We had a good thing going. We went into the second game, and it's been all downhill since then. We kind of catapulted them into the season they've had. I guess you can say it's a little bit of a revenge factor."
True, the Bengals have nothing to lose (except more pride). True, there is no pressure on them. That's about the end of it though. How can Palmer state that the Browns slowed the Bengals down? The Bengals defeated a poor Baltimore Ravens team in Week 1 before facing us. If Marvin Lewis let that one loss to the Browns ruin the team's entire season, then he should be fired on the spot, because I've never heard anything more ridiculous (I have, but you know what I mean). The correct statement would've been that the Browns gave the Bengals a reality check -- their defense wasn't going to take them anywhere this year. As the season went on, they then discovered that their offensive line wouldn't take them to places that the Browns' line is currently taking them.
Also, is there a lot of pressure on the Browns? It makes for good discussion, but in the end, I don't think the Browns will "feel" the weight of the pressure on them. I haven't seen overwhelming signs of panic this season, especially in last week's game against the Buffalo Bills. That doesn't mean the Browns will win the game though, because Palmer's history against us, coupled with some luck on the Bengals defense, could indeed spoil our season. Hopefully Derek Anderson and company play the way they've played all season when they are at their best and brightest. Not only would that clinch a playoff berth for us, but it'll keep hope alive that maybe, just maybe, we can also win our first division title since returning to the league.
(Note: I will have a post on the Browns' playoff scenarios up after the Steelers/Rams game. I wanted to wait until after that game to compile everything, since it'd almost defeat the purpose to do twice the work when I could've just waited until the game concluded.)