Browns notebook: Browns, Titans fighting for wild-card spot
Several playoff scenarios could play out for the Browns, but the focus is on Tennessee.
The 9-5 Browns and 8-6 Titans are fighting for a wild-card spot. If the Browns beat Cincinnati or Tennessee loses at home to the Jets, the fight will be over.
The Browns still can win the AFC North if they beat the Bengals and 49ers, and Pittsburgh loses at Baltimore.
If the Titans beat the Jets and Colts, and the Browns win and lose, the Browns could finish behind Tennessee, losing a tiebreaker.
If the Titans go 2-0 and the Browns go 1-1 with a loss to Cincinnati, they could still get in two ways:
- The Steelers lose at Baltimore.
- The Jaguars lose to the Raiders and Texans.
Parity times two
The NFL’s five most closely contested rivalries among teams that have collided at least 50 times (team in lead listed first):
1. Jets-Patriots, 48-48-1
2. Browns-Bengals, 34-34
3. Cardinals-Eagles, 54-53-5
4. 49ers-Bears, 30-29-1
5. Steelers-Browns, 57-55
Three scary cats
Quarterback Carson Palmer and wideouts Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are among the most substantial players in Bengal history.
The Bengals tend to get carried away, though, projecting a plausible scenario wherein Johnson can become the second-most prolific wideout in NFL history behind Jerry Rice.
The team used to say running back Corey Dillon “invites comparisons to the great Jim Brown.” That RSVP never came in.
Palmer became the fifth fastest NFL quarterback to reach 100 touchdown passes when he threw one at San Francisco last Sunday.
Houshmandzadeh boosted his 2007 catch total to 101, breaking Carl Pickens’ club record of 100.
Takeo Spikes used to be the face of the Bengals’ front seven. Now it’s linebacker Landon Johnson, who leads the Bengals in tackles for the third time in four years.
He dropped to the third round of the 2004 draft (out of Purdue) partly because he was too light. Johnson weighs more and gets pushed around less than in previous years.
Only five Browns who played in an important 2002 game at Cincinnati, fueling a playoff drive, remain on the roster. They are Phil Dawson, Orpheus Roye, Steve Heiden, Ryan Tucker and Andra Davis.
Seven Bengals were on the roster then: Willie Anderson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson, Levi Jones, Brad St. Louis and Justin Smith.
Four-time Pro Bowler Willie Anderson has missed most of the Bengals’ season at right tackle with knee and foot issues. His replacement, 6-foot-7, 340-pound Stacy Andrews, might be coming into his own.
The Bengals gambled on Andrews (Round 4 pick in 2004) even though he played hardly any football until his senior year at Mississippi.
One indication the former shot put and discus champion has learned the ropes: Carson Palmer has been sacked once or not at all in 12 of this year’s 14 games. Andrews still has problems with false starts.
- How much will the Bengals miss running back Rudi Johnson? The Bengals are 18-1 when Johnson carries 25 times or more. Five of those games were wins over Cleveland.
- The Bengals will have their first losing season since 2002. They have been 8-8 three times and 11-5 once since then.
- Chad Johnson isn’t a kid any more. He will turn 30 next month.
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail email@example.com