There’s several other teams in the conversation about ‘most disappointing’ in the 2019 NFL season but the Cleveland Browns are definitely in the mix. Before the season began the expectation was that they’d continue to build upon the progress they displayed last year with some analysts suggesting that they had the upside potential to be a Super Bowl contender. They’ve fallen far short of that goal and can finish no better than 7-9 by getting a victory here. There’s much speculation that the team will fire head coach Freddie Kitchens in the offseason and even if he does manage to keep his job there are definitely significant changes to come.
The Cincinnati Bengals have plenty of work to do in rebuilding their team but they’ve got a good start toward that goal. With a loss against Miami in Week 16, the Bengals locked up the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The expectation is that they’ll draft this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Joe Burrow from LSU. This will mean the end of the Andy Dalton era in Cincinnati though he’s unlikely to be out of a job for long. That makes this game his Cincinnati ‘swan song’ as well as his last chance to impress the rest of the league that he’s still got the ‘skills to pay the bills’ at age 32.
At least the Bengals are happy with their first year head coach Zac Taylor. Despite Cincinnati having the worst record in the NFL the ‘eye test’ strongly validates the assertion that they’re not the worst team in the league. They may be lacking in talent but they’ve continued to compete and play hard for Taylor which is a highly impressive thing for a one win team. Such was the case last weekend when they had every reason to quit down 35-12 in the fourth quarter at Miami. Instead, they scored 23 points in the final six minutes of the game to take it to overtime. They would eventually lose on a 37 yard Jason Sanders field goal but the fact they were even *in* OT says a lot about Taylor’s motivational skills.
The Cleveland Browns definitely have more talent up and down the roster than the Bengals. What they don’t have is chemistry–Cleveland is a completely dysfunctional team on and off the field. It’s highly doubtful that they’ll be looking to compete here. They’ve failed to cover their last 5 road games, after all, and they’ve lost against the spread in 6 of their last 8 games overall. They’re just looking to get the season over with and that’s all the opportunity that Cincinnati will need to steal one more victory.