"Battle of Ohio" Sunday in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI (AP) - Derek Anderson threw away the Cleveland
Browns' playoff chances the last time he came to town. The stakes
are even higher for the return trip.
Anderson's job - and perhaps the Browns' chances for a
turnaround - are on the line Sunday when the "Battle of Ohio"
resumes in a new form, more of a "Weekend of the Winless." The
Browns and Bengals are both 0-3 and tottering on the verge of early
elimination in the AFC North, where it may not take a lot of wins
to get a title.
An 0-4 start probably won't get it done, though.
"I think whoever wins this game is not totally out of it,"
Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "Everybody is playing tough
teams, so it's not over, probably, by a long shot. So if you can
get a division win, you're not out of it."
Lose, and it's a whole different matter. Think it's ugly along
the shores of Lake Erie and the Ohio River? Just wait for one more
loss.
History would begin to beckon.
The Browns haven't started 0-4 since 1999, their first year back
in the league as an expansion team. Tim Couch led the overmatched
Browns to a 2-14 finish that season, the start of a tough stretch.
Cleveland has made only one playoff appearance since its return, a
9-7 record in 2002 was good enough for a wild-card berth and a
first-round loss to Pittsburgh.
Think the Dawg Pound is riled up now? Center Hank Fraley has
already gotten a taste of the fans' feelings on his weekly radio
show.
"I had one (caller) after the second game. He said, 'Tell Romeo
to kick another field goal,"' Fraley said. "I just laughed at
him. I was likoodied again
in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Giants that seemed to get the
offense back in form.
Palmer was sacked six times by the Giants. He's been sacked nine
times overall in three games, and hit frequently when he's gotten
rid of the ball. Besides the bloody noses, Palmer has been hobbled
by a sprained ankle, the result of another hit.
"I think I'm built for that," he said. "Being 245 pounds, it
gives me a little extra cushion for when those big guys are laying
on you. But in no way do I want to get sacked six times. I really
don't think it will happen again."
Despite the pain, Palmer led the offense in a breakout game that
restored a little confidence. The offense had only one touchdown in
the first two games.
"I think our offense is going to start rolling," receiver Chad
Ocho Cinco said. "It picked up this week and as the weeks keep
going, it's going to continue to pick up. It was right there
Sunday. I mean, we haven't really been explosive as we normally
are, but it's right there. Sunday was a start. I doubt if we go
backward."
Another loss would send them back into their bad history.
Cincinnati hasn't opened a season 0-4 since 2002, when it went a
franchise-worst 2-12 and fired coach Dick LeBeau. It would be their
fourth 0-4 start since 1999, leaving fans with the feeling that the
bad old days are certainly back.
Unlike in Cleveland, where the coach and quarterback are taking
the brunt of things, the front office is the main target in
Cincinnati. Fans realize coach Marvin Lewis has job security with
two years left on his contract. At some point, Lewis may decide he
wants out, but an 0-4 start won't jeopardize his job.
"I don't think it has any bearing on my future," Lewis said.
"It's serious to me, but it's got nothing to do with my future.
And if it does, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.
"My future doesn't cause me any worry, OK?"

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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