The Battle of Ohio 2.0 is on the horizon. Finding motivation for the game will on the shoulders of both players and coaches.
The years started out with a boatload of hope for both teams. The Cincinnati Bengals were coming off a spectacular 12-4 season. Their only blemish was a Wild Card meltdown against the Steelers. The Browns were riding high on the promises of a new sheriff in town. Head coach Hue Jackson was the lawman hired to turn things around. Neither squad has lived up to expectations and the frustration has taken hold.
Now, with the season nearing its end, the Battle of Ohio 2.0 is set to be played on the banks of Lake Erie. FirstEnergy Stadium will be the battleground for the latest comparison of pride. In fact, that’s what this last matchup will represent. Both teams will have to muster the energy to prove they matter. Fans have been essentially robbed of their opportunity to winning football. Honor and dignity for players and coaches will be on the line Sunday.
Cincinnati and Cleveland are on opposite sides of Ohio. But, the franchises are experiencing the same letdown. In order to keep the outlook positive, winning is the bottom line. The Bengals are in a peculiar situation. To tank or not to tank? The Browns are just looking for a win–any win–to make the season’s sorrowful sting go away.
What Should Motivate The Bengals?
After starting the year with such high expectations, Cincinnati has taken a mighty tumble. This was supposed to be the year that it all came together. A rainy Saturday night in January should have been the motivation for a Super Bowl run. Instead, a 4-7-1 record is the result of 13 weeks of football.
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Week 13 was a bounceback for the Bengals. Beating the Philadelphia Eagles proved that they could play sound defense and finally generate offense without A.J. Green. The coaching staff was finally able to get the best out of veterans and rookies. It was a win-win situation, from the standpoint of cosmetics and execution. At long last, Bengals fans were presented with the team that was advertised.
Without getting into the gory details of what needs to be done, the Bengals are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Mathematically, things are shaky. There haven’t been many teams to make the postseason with just eight wins. Since the beginning of the Dalton-Green era (2011), there have been only three franchises to slip in with less than nine W’s. Denver (8-8), Green Bay (8-7-1), and North Carolina (7-8-1) fought their way in. The best way to the Promised Land is to win the AFC North.
Winning out could possibly save Marvin Lewis’ job. But, this could be the year that owner Mike Brown has seen enough. Sweeping Jackson and the Browns would also be Lewis’ way of showing he still reigns as king of Ohio.
Can The Browns Get Hyped?
This was definitely a rebuilding year for the Browns. There were numerous claims that it was just a “reboot” and things would be tolerable. But, fans have finally come to realize that 2016 will be the steppingstone for better times.
No magical potion exists for the Browns and the roster has been gutted to prepare for the future. On Sunday, the fate of Cleveland will be out into the hands of Robert Griffin III. After suffering an early injury, Griffin is ready to take the reins at QB. With the year essentially over, Jackson will again be looking at his signal-caller to find out what he can do.
Getting win number one is all the motivation the Browns need. But, the added incentive of notching that first W against the Bengals would be sweet revenge for Hue Jackson.
In Bengals-Browns Part One, Green hauled in a Hail Mary TD pass at the end of the first half. The catch was highlight fodder for the week. Though he’s nursing a hamstring injury, A.J. could see action against Cleveland again. Shutting Green down is another reason to get hyped. Sadly, Lewis’ decision on the start may not be until game time.
The reasons to win are many. Postseason dreams, pride and draft picks are on the list. Ultimately, it all rides on who wants it more.