The Browns were eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, while the Bengals clinched the AFC North Division with some assistance from the referees.
With neither team having anything to play for, the game will have the look and feel of a preseason contest as Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield is out after being placed on the injured reserve list, and Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow will take the day off to rest up for the playoffs.
Can the Browns end a disappointing season on a winning note? Can they continue their recent domination of the Bengals and run their record to 7-1 in games between the two teams since the start of the 2018 season?
We’ll all find out come Sunday afternoon, so in the meantime, here is everything you need to know as the Browns look head into the offseason with a shred of dignity.
Records: Cleveland is 7-9. Cincinnati is 10-6.
Division records: Cleveland is 2-3. Cincinnati is 4-1.
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma, Lindsay Czarniak (sidelines
Radio: 92.3 The Fan (WKRK), ESPN 850 WKNR and WNCX (98.5)
Announcers: Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken, Nathan Zegura (sideline reporter)
Last meeting: The Browns won the last regular-season matchup, 41-16, in Week 9 of this season. (Boxscore)
All-time series: The Bengals lead the all-time series, 51-45. The Browns have won six of the last seven meetings between the two teams, including three in a row at home.
Weather: 38 degrees and cloudy, with a 16 percent chance of precipitation and 20 mph winds from the west. (weather.com)
Uniform: The Browns will be wearing their brown jerseys and white pants.
Brown on White for the season finale! ⬜️ pic.twitter.com/btKP6ide4J— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 7, 2022
Injury report: Browns - Questionable: safety Ronnie Harrison (ankle), cornerback Troy Hill (knee), running back Kareem Hunt (ankle), safety John Johnson III (hamstring), tight end David Njoku (shoulder), cornerback Denzel Ward (groin) and cornerback Greedy Williams (shoulder).
Bengals - Questionable: quarterback Joe Burrow (rest/knee), defensive end Sam Hubbard (thigh), kicker Evan McPherson (right groin), defensive end D.J. Reader (rest) and tight end C.J. Uzomah (knee, hip). Out: cornerback Jalen Davis (ankle) and defensive end Cameron Sample (hamstring).
The line: Browns -6
A Few Things to Watch For
Battle of the backups - Fans may need a program to figure out who is on the field for both the Browns and the Bengals on Sunday.
Cleveland will give quarterback Case Keenum his second start of the season, while the Bengals will roll with Brandon Allen at quarterback.
The game will be Allen’s sixth start at quarterback for the Bengals after he made five starts last season after Burrow went down with a torn ACL. During that stretch, he completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 925 yards, five touchdown passes and four interceptions.
How the Browns will counter the Bengals on defense remains to be seen, but head coach Kevin Stefanski did say this week that anyone who is healthy could play, but many of the starters on both sides of the ball may not see their normal amount of playing time.
Notable milestones - Defensive end Myles Garrett is still five sacks away from having the most in franchise history, so while he probably won’t hit that mark on Sunday, there are a few other milestones he can reach.
With a half-sack, Garrett will pass Bruce Smith for the most sacks by a No. 1 overall pick in their first five seasons. That half-sack would also break a time with Smith and Jarrett Allen for the most sacks by a player in their first five seasons.
If tight end David Njoku catches a touchdown pass, it will not only mark a career high with five, but tie Njoku for the sixth-most touchdowns receptions by a Cleveland tight end in a single season. He would join Ozzie Newsome (1984 and 1985), Milt Morin (1968), Kellen Winslow Jr. (2007) Steve Heiden (2004) on the list.
On the team side, if the Browns rush for more than 150 yards they will tie the 1947 team for the second-most in franchise history with 10 games.
For the Bengals, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is just 45 receiving yards away from breaking the rookie receiving record, which was set in 1960 by Bill Groman of the Houston Oilers.
Time to say goodbye? - Sunday might be the final game in orange and brown for several players — either because their contracts are expiring or the Browns may be willing to move on — including wide receiver Jarvis Landry, tight end Austin Hooper, center JC Tretter, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, wide receiver Rashard Higgins, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, linebacker Malcolm Smith, running back D’Ernest Johnson, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., and safety Ronnie Harrison Jr.
Sunday will also be the final game for Doug Dieken in the radio booth. Dieken has been a member of the organization for 50 years, first as a player from 1971 until 1984, and since 1985 as a member of the team’s radio broadcast.
The Browns will honor Dieken during Sunday’s game.
A final quote
Head coach Kevin Stefanski (via a team-provided transcript):
“There is no doubt that there is disappointment and frustration based on where we are, but as pros, we know that we have a job to do. We know that we have a game on Sunday versus the division champs. We get to play in front of our home fans. Another opportunity to compete. I do think the guys understand that part of it.”
These are just a few things to keep an eye on; now it is time to have your say. What are you looking for from the Browns in Sunday’s game against the Bengals?