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The Battle of Ohio rarely has playoff implications for both teams, but that will be the case Sunday when the Cleveland Browns head south down Interstate 71 to face the rival Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati sits atop the AFC North, but a loss to Cleveland would draw the Browns within a half-game of first place. Cleveland won the first meeting, a 17-6 victory at home on Sept. 29.
After that loss in Cleveland, the Bengals won their next four games to grab control of the division. However, two consecutive losses in overtime have opened the door for the Browns and the Ravens. "We pushed things forward very positively, now we've dug a little bit of a hole and we've got to climb out and play better this week against the Browns," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Bengals -5.5. O/U: 42.5.
ABOUT THE BROWNS (4-5): Coming out of its bye week, Cleveland will match its win total from last season with one more victory. What makes that even more impressive is that the Browns are on their third starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, who has recorded the team’s highest passer ratings of the season in his first two starts. "What he's doing is really giving us a life,” first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski said while raving about Campbell’s leadership skills.
ABOUT THE BENGALS (6-4): Quarterback Andy Dalton has come under fire after throwing a combined six interceptions in the two overtime losses. Despite the setbacks, Cincinnati is still in control of its fate with four of its final six games at home, where it is undefeated this season. "We know what we have in front of us," cornerback Terence Newman said. "We just have to win some football games."
1. Cleveland can sweep the season series for the first time since 2002.
2. Bengals WR A.J. Green, who had seven catches for 51 yards in the first meeting, has five consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
3. Dalton has thrown for 14 touchdowns and four interceptions in wins and just four TDs against nine picks in losses.
PREDICTION: Bengals 24, Browns 17