The Browns are finally ready to get the regular season underway after finishing 1-3 in the preseason, and they draw the in-state rival Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1. And won't it look strange to not see Carson Palmer under center for Cincinnati?
Although the Bengals will be without their long-time signal caller on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cleveland Browns Stadium, coach Marvin Lewis thinks that his squad will be better than the team that finished 4-12 and in last place in the AFC North in 2010.
Lewis sounded happy to be facing a familiar foe in the opener. Or at least a familiar foe on the field, if not on the sidelines:
"They’re changing again (new coaches and schemes), so I don’t know if we’re familiar with them. We’re familiar with a lot of the players, though," Lewis said. "We know they have outstanding skill guys. What Peyton Hillis has done since becoming a Cleveland Brown, and Massaquoi, and their two tight ends – they’re very effective players. And Colt McCoy, getting to play last season, and with his opening game against the Steelers and just how he went through his rookie year. So we’re familiar with those guys.
"Defensively, they’re making the transition back to the 4-3 but there will be some familiar faces. (Scott) Fujita, who I think is a fine, fine football player, and guys like that over there. Joe Haden had a fine rookie year in the back end. So they have some good players on defense. I thought their secondary played very well last season and was probably the bright spot of their year. They have a young draft pick, the kid from Baylor (DL Phil Taylor) who is a fine inside player. He was great prospect, a big strong man and a really good prospect coming out this last draft."
The Bengals are going with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton to take the place of the retired (?) Palmer, with 6-year veteran Bruce Gradkowski as back-up.
Cincinnati also features running back Cedric Benson, who will be serving some jail time soon in Texas, but who will be available for the opener.
The Browns and Bengals split their two games last season, with each team winning at home. Cleveland won 23-20 on October 3, while the Bengals returned the favor 19-17 on December 19 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati leads the all-time series 39-36.
Be sure to refer to updates, news, injury reports, features, and all the hype heading up to Sunday's game. And man, doesn't it seem as if it is perfect timing for football that counts?