There's a reason why it's an even-Steven series.

All signs point to a win by the Cincinnati Bengals over the Cleveland Browns Sunday.

All signs but one: history.

The Bengals are coming off a big, last-minute win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, their first win over the defending Super Bowl champions in three years.  After a disappointing last-play loss in week one of the season to Denver, they've won their last two games.

The Browns (whose fans may even be starting to call them the Clowns) are a team in disarray.  After Brady Quinn began the season at quarterback, he was replaced in the middle of last week's game against Baltimore by Derek Anderson, who did no better.  In spite of the team being 0-3, Anderson is starting Sunday against the Bengals.  And the game is in Cincinnati.

But the series, for both teams, is about the only one where the teams are even against each other.  In 71 meetings since 1970, the Bengals hold a slight 36-35 edge.  The two teams are 1-1 against each other in the past two seasons.  

Then, there are the games.

In 1975, the Bengals were 9-1 and had to play the Browns, who looked to be on their way to a winless season.  The Browns won, to knock Cincinnati out of first place in their division.

In 2003, the Bengals were on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.  All they had to do was beat the Browns in the last game of the season, in Cincinnati. The Browns had been clobbered by the Baltimore Ravens the week before.  The Browns won, and the Bengals had to wait two years to make the postseason.

Two years ago, Cincinnati faced Cleveland in the second game of the season.  The Browns looked terrible in a loss the week before to the Steelers.  The Bengals were favored to win easily.  They didn't.  The Browns beat them by a touchdown to spark them to their best season in years, a season where they went 10-6 and almost made the playoffs.  I say almost because, in the next-to-last game of the season, the Bengals beat them in Cincinnati.

This year, the Browns are down, and the Bengals, who have had two previous losing seasons, are starting to show a pulse. But the last time I checked, the point spread for Sunday's game (in Cincinnati) favors the Bengals by just 6 points.

Anyone wonder why?


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