Bengals Matchup with Johnny Manziel May Set Tone for Years


Nov 30, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) throws the ball during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo beats Cleveland 26 to 10. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

It’s being reported today that the Browns have chosen to start rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel on Sunday versus the Bengals.

The decision comes after Brian Hoyer struggled mightily in recent weeks; his struggles have, in part, contributed to the Browns progressive fall from playoff contention.  The Browns have chosen to see if Johnny Manziel can galvanize his team before they fall completely from contention.

Sunday is a “make or break” game for both the Browns and Bengals if either hope to make the playoffs; the Bengals would still be in contention, but a loss would put them at the mercy of momentum.  Yet the 2014 playoffs won’t be the only thing on the line on Sunday.  The future of this rivalry and each organization will also be in the balance.

After spending several years in the league’s basement, the Browns are looking to re-establish themselves as a team that demands attention.  Thus far, they’ve had a pretty successful 2014 considering the changes they went through at the coaching ranks and despite being without Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron for much of the year (they also lost center Alex Mack earlier this season).  Johnny Manziel’s implementation establishes him as the future of this organization.  Admittedly he’s somewhat “playing with house money” this year as no one should really expect a rookie quarterback to jump into a playoff race and find instant success; it actually seems unprecedented.  But with the Browns beginning to flail, they turn to the “igniter” that is Manziel.

With regards to this matchup, the Bengals have the opportunity to set the tone during this matchup as Johnny Manziel could be around for some time, which means he’ll face the Bengals often.  The Bengals would do well to dominate Manziel and possibly knock his confidence a bit when seeing stripes.

The Bengals desperately need the win to make the playoffs while they can simultaneously knock one AFC North contender out of the race for the crown.  But this game also has huge ramifications for the future of this organization.  A loss doesn’t eliminate the Bengals from the playoffs, but would put them at a huge disadvantage to get there for the fourth straight year.  If this happens, the Bengals will be forced to consider some major changes.  Marvin Lewis has married himself to Andy Dalton, so faltering down the stretch could mean the end to his time in Cincinnati.  At the same time, if Dalton continues to struggle, who knows what happens to the confidence the team has placed in him.

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Just an hour or so ago, the team activated A.J. McCarron, which means he’ll be with the team for the remainder of the season.  A meaningful appearance on the field for McCarron is nearly impossible at this point, but even opening the door to the possibility can only bring questions if in fact the Bengals stumble to this year’s finish.

Yes, winning on Sunday will mean a lot towards this year’s conclusion.  The Browns are tasking themselves with taking a step up in the league.  Johnny Manziel will be looking to take full advantage of his very unique opportunity, which could vault him a stardom. The Bengals will be looking to recover from last week’s vital loss and take another step towards the division crown.  And though it won’t be at the forefront of their minds, though after Marvin Lewis’ odd comment regarding Manziel, it may be forced upon them, the Bengals have the opportunity to set the tone for this rivalry when Manziel takes the field.  Sunday afternoon should be an interesting time for both of the NFL’s Ohio organizations.