Bengals Look to Play Spoiler

In Cincinnati, the season is lost but the team doesn't want the Browns to clinch in their stadium...

The Bengals want to be the spoiler Sunday against the Browns, who need just one victory to clinch their first playoff berth since 2002.

The latest edition of the Battle of Ohio will be played Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.

For the 5-9 Bengals, it's all about pride and finishing the season in a strong way. Not to mention gaining a bit of revenge for the 51-45 loss at Cleveland Browns Stadium that sent the Bengals season into a tailspin from which they've been unable to escape.

"We get another crack at them," Bengals defensive lineman Bryan Robinson said. "It's a meaningful game for them, because if they win they go to the playoffs, which in turn is a meaningful game for us. If we win, they might have to wait another week to see what happens.

"We don't want them to pull out playoff shirts and hats on us. I'd love to see them go; I just don't want them to beat us to get there. Guys work hard over there, and you feel happy for (Browns coach) Romeo Crennel, but not in our house."

Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said much the same thing.

"We want to win," he said. "They do have a chance to go to the playoffs. I'm kind of jealous. Our goal is to make it hard for them and easier for Tennessee."

The Titans need to win out and for the Browns to lose to stay in contention.

"We have a chance to ruin or at least hurt some playoff hopes," Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson said, "and we've got guys with a lot of pride. You go out there with your name on the back of your jersey, and with the Bengal 'B' on the front. You've got to be ready to play for that."

The all-time lead in the Battle of Ohio series is also on the line; the Bengals and Browns are tied at 34-34 over 68 previous meetings dating back to 1970.

"They're our big in-state rival," Bengals guard Bobbie Williams said. "We've got to be able to have something left for them. It's very disappointing to face the reality that we can't even be a .500 team, but we've got to put that behind us for now."

The Bengals had beaten Cleveland five straight times entering this season, but the Browns took this year's first game at Cleveland on Sept. 16. Quarterback Carson Palmer threw a career-high six touchdown passes in that game, but Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson threw for five touchdowns, and Browns tailback Jamal Lewis ran for 216 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown run.

The Bengals defense is looking for a measure of redemption, as well.

"We talked about it (Wednesday) morning, finish the season up strong," rookie cornerback Leon Hall said. "In Week 2, we didn't play well as a defense. We want to kind of redeem ourselves and show our true colors."

GAME NOTES:

--Series History: 69th meeting. The Browns and Bengals, franchises both founded by Paul Brown, are tied 34-34. The Bengals lead 21-13 in Cincinnati. The Browns won earlier this season at Cleveland, 51-45, to snap a five-game Bengals winning streak in the series.

--The Browns outscored the Bengals 51-45 in Week 2 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel will hear nothing of a struggling Bengals offense, though Cincinnati has failed to score 20 points five times this season, including the past three games in a row. "So I'm telling my guys, I say, 'Hey, they scored 45 on you the last time, you'd better expect the same thing this time,'" he said. "So I said don't believe what you see on the tape. Expect that they're going to put up 45."

--WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who established a single-season franchise record with his 101st reception last week against the 49ers, was the only Bengals player named to the AFC Pro Bowl team. WR Chad Johnson and K Shayne Graham were named first alternates. LT Levi Jones and QB Carson Palmer were named third alternates. "The season I had, with the hampered start I had, I couldn't expect more than that," said Jones, whose entry to the lineup was delayed by the need to rehab his surgically repaired knee in Arizona. "I'm looking forward to -- that's going to be the key, (staying health)," he said. "Hopefully we won't have any setbacks from here to that point."

--The Bengals are 1-6 on the road and 4-3 at home. The Bengals have won three in a row at home against the Browns.

--Eric Steinbach will return to Paul Brown Stadium for a game Sunday for the first time in almost a year. But the former Bengals offensive lineman, now starting at left guard for the Browns, while gone, is not forgotten. "We voted for him to go to the Pro Bowl," Bengals defensive lineman Bryan Robinson said Wednesday of Steinbach. "Eric is one of the bigger reasons they are running the ball successfully and protecting the quarterback." The Browns have allowed just 17 sacks, second fewest in the league to New Orleans' 12, and are ranked 14th in rush offense. Steinbach -- along with rookie LT Joe Thomas, C Hank Fraley and RT Kevin Shaffer -- has started all 14 games. He signed a seven-year, $49.5 million contract with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent in March. He was the Bengals' second-round draft pick in 2003. Quarterback Carson Palmer was the first-round pick. "Cleveland knew what (it was) doing," Palmer said. "They knew what they were getting (and) from whom they were taking it from. So you never want to lose a player that has that much of an impact on the game like Eric did."

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Browns RB Jamal Lewis vs. Bengals rush defense -- Lewis, who ran for 216 yards in the second game of the season against the Bengals, is one of seven tailbacks to run for 100-plus yards against Cincinnati this season. The Bengals are 0-7 in those games. The Browns have excelled in keeping their offense balanced. The Bengals had put together five solid defensive games until last week, when the 49ers' Frank Gore ran for 138 yards.

Bengals QB Carson Palmer vs. Browns secondary -- Palmer threw six of his 22 touchdown passes in Game 2 at Cleveland against a pass defense that could not contain him or his top two receivers. Chad Johnson had 209 yards and two touchdowns, while T.J. Houshmandzadeh had eight catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns. The Browns did intercept Palmer twice, one each for S Sean Jones and CB Leigh Bodden. The Browns are ranked 29th in pass defense at 249.5 yards a game, and the Bengals fifth in pass offense (255.8). Look for the rematch Sunday to be another high-scoring game, similar to the 51-45 Browns victory at Cleveland.

INJURY IMPACT: Because TB Rudi Johnson can't go because of his hamstring injury, look for the Bengals to give second-year RB DeDe Dorsey more of a look. Dorsey has an 8.8-yard average on 20 rushing attempts. Otherwise, the Bengals are largely healthy going into the game against the Browns.


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