This Thursday night’s nationally-televised National Football League (NFL) game features two teams from the same state, the same division and the same conference in a battle for bragging rights and much, much more.
The Cleveland Browns, currently in third place in the North Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) with a Won-Loss record of 2-6 have little more to play for than the right to claim they are the best professional football team in the state of Ohio.
The home team in this game is the Cincinnati Bengals. With an outstanding Won-Loss record of 7-0, this squad stands alone in first place in the AFC’s North Division, three-and-one-half games ahead of the second place Pittsburgh Steelers and a whopping five-and-one-half games ahead of the visiting Cleveland Browns.
With just about a half season remaining to be played, the Bengals appear to be “a lock” to claim divisional honors. While it may be that the Steelers have a slight chance to catch the league leaders, the squad from Cleveland really has no chance at all.
So this Thursday night’s game against long time rivals will be played for “bragging rights” by the Browns and probably by the Bengals, as well. On paper, the first place Bengals appear to be unbeatable. They regularly profit from a productive offense led by quarterback Andy Dalton and a “lock-down” defense that frequently makes scoring difficult for the team’s opponents.
Of course, games are not played on paper. They are played on the gridiron and that is where they are won or lost. And because the Bengals put lots of emotion into last weekend’s showdown with the second place Steelers there is every reason to believe that the upcoming contest against Cleveland is what players and coaches often refer to as a “trap game.”
That means that the powerful Bengals may “relax and take it easy” against a weaker opponent after bringing their “A” game to a key rivalry contest played the previous week.
If Cincinnati does decide to “mail it in” with a sub-par effort, the Cleveland Browns, a squad with a very solid and opportunistic defense led by Joe Haden also has a modest offense now led by Johnny Manziel that can surprise the home team and fly home with an upset victory.
It can happen because the Bengals may believe they have already locked up first place and can “cruise to the postseason.” Cincinnati’s Head Coach, Marvin Lewis, will have to work a little harder to keep his players motivated and ready to play.
However, human nature being what it is, a loss to the Browns by the home team Bengals will come as no surprise to fans of professional football.
Courtesy of Bleacher Report