Morning Stripes: Important all-Ohio Battle

All week, the media in Cincinnati has been wondering the following: When was the last time a Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals game meant as much as Sunday's could?

Some have brought up 1995, when the teams were tied for first in the former AFC Central division.

What those on the 1995 bandwagon forget, though, is the fact that both teams were 3-4 and in a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well.

It seems you have to go all the way back to 1988 -- just a few years after one strapping Bengals beat reporter, who shall remain nameless, was born -- to find a game that had as much postseason and divisional value as the one that will play out inside Paul Brown Stadium later this weekend. That year, both teams ended up reaching the playoffs. Cincinnati rode a 12-4 record all the way to the Super Bowl, and the Browns fell to the Houston Oilers in the AFC wild-card game after posting a 10-6 regular-season record. That year also marked the last time both teams made the playoffs in the same season.

Across its first 80 editions, the Battle of Ohio had its share of important contests, but this certainly will be the most intriguing one of the last 25 years. If Cleveland continues to play the way it did in its last game two weeks ago, it could actually make the playoffs this season.

To keep our "Battle of Ohio" Week going, we kick off the Friday Morning Stripes with a look at how significant this rivalry has always been to some native Southwest Ohio Bengals, and how much they're looking forward to Sunday's game:

  • Fox Sports Ohio's Kevin Goheen caught up with area natives J.K. Schaffer, Mike Nugent and Kevin Huber as he wrote about the significance and impact this particular Battle of Ohio could have on how the rest of the season goes. This is an interesting look at how, despite the awful nature of some of the teams playing in the rivalry the past quarter century, there still is a true all-hate feel to this in-state feud.

  • Speaking of Huber and Nugent, the two kickers spoke to reporters on Thursday about their rough outings at Baltimore last weekend (we'll have a little more on Huber on the Bengals blog later Friday). Wind was a major factor in their struggles as swirling conditions killed punt distance for Huber and pulled a field goal left for Nugent. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner Jr. notes that the pair could be in for a similar kicking nightmare on Sunday. The weather forecast is calling for showers and winds with gusts over 20 mph. Last week's gusts topped at 28 mph.

  • Bengals defensive tackle Brandon Thompson has caught the Browns' attention, writes Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson. The Browns and Bengals agree that Thompson, Geno Atkins' replacement, has been a more than adequate substitute for the Pro Bowler who went down two games ago.

  • In his "Film Room" posting this week for Sports Illustrated, Greg Bedard took a look at the Bengals' defensive line without Atkins and came to the conclusion that they are going to be just fine. The interior's ability to still clog up blocking lanes and to provide a deep push into the pocket will continue to allow the edge rushers, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, to get to the quarterback.