After last Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, a game that was supposed to be a must-win if the Bengals were to have a winning record this season, as they have arguably the toughest second-half schedule of any NFL team. They must bounce back this week if they are to keep these hopes alive, as a loss to the Browns would be crippling in a multitude of ways. Since Marvin Lewis has been the head coach of the Bengals, losses to their Ohio rivals have spelled disaster for the rest of the season.
In 2004, an early road loss to the Browns dropped the Bengals to 1-4 as they finished the year 8-8.
In 2007, with a promising core of players returning after just missing the postseason with an 8-8 season, the Bengals opened up the year with a huge Monday night football win over the defending AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens. They then went to Cleveland, where they dropped a 51-45 shootout to the Browns, and went on to lose 5 of their next 6 to start 2-6 and finish 7-9.
Then in 2008, the Bengals and Browns played in week 4 with the Bengals sitting at 0-3, and after holding a third-quarter lead behind the arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Cincinnati defense could not hold on as Cleveland rallied to drop the Bengals to 0-4 as they started the year 0-8 and finished 4-11-1.
While the Bengals theoretically have a slim chance of still making the postseason this year, in the history of the battle of Ohio, the Bengals have only made the playoffs once since 1988 when losing to the Browns during the regular season. Under Marvin Lewis, all three of the teams’ postseason trips came after getting clean sweeps of the Browns, and if the Bengals want to reach their goal of returning to the postseason, something they haven’t done in consecutive years since 1981-82, then Sunday is essentially a must-win.