Much like their first matchup, the Cleveland Browns travel to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday with both teams in desperate need of a bounce-back effort.
Then, a 35-30 win in Week 2 by the Browns, it was Cleveland that shook off a rout on the road the week before to get on track and kick-start afour-game winning streak. Cleveland (4-2) is hoping for more of the same after a humiliating 38-7 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6.
The Browns would appear to be on track for their first winning record since 2007, but it doesn't feel that way to quarterback Baker Mayfield.
"The feeling throughout (our) building after that loss -- 4-2 has never felt so much like 0-6 before," Mayfield said. "But that's because we have very high expectations for ourselves."
Wideout Odell Beckham Jr. was even more succinct. He was spotted pacing the sidelines and yelling in the late stages of the blowout at Pittsburgh.
"I'm pissed," Beckham said. "And at this point, I don't really care to keep trying to make myself look like a good guy to the world and all that. ... Tired of losing. Tired of losing to good teams."
It's a sentiment all too familiar in Cincinnati (1-4-1) where the Bengals lost another winnable game on Sunday in a 31-27 setback at the Indianapolis Colts. Cincinnati raced to a 21-0 lead, but lost after a missed fourth-quarter field goal and rookie Joe Burrow's interception in the red zone inside the final minute.
"I played really well for three quarters and 14 minutes and then had one bad play," said Burrow, who has four 300-yard passing games in six starts this season. "Put it behind us and go back to work tomorrow."
Mayfield is saying the same thing. He's thrown for 1,095 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions this season, but his issues have been at the forefront of Cleveland's two losses which came by a combined 76-13 score at division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Mayfield played with injured ribs on Sunday. He said it was a non-issue, but admitted he's feeling better this week. And the third-year quarterback swears the chatter about his status -- he was benched in the second half at Pittsburgh -- isn't a distraction.
"I don't give a damn what they say," Mayfield said. "We know we can be better. I know I can be better. The outside noise doesn't matter. They get paid to talk and we get paid to do our work."
There's been drama in Cincinnati as well. Media reports had cornerback Darius Phillips and defensive end Carlos Dunlap venting about their roles on the defense, and wide receiver John Ross III wants a trade according to another anonymous report.
"We've got a group of guys that I believe in that want to handle things the right way. Sometimes, guys get frustrated and say things," Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said. "It happens sometimes."
Burrow has been solid so far, completing 65.0 percent of his league-high 246 pass attempts for 1,617 yards. But he's also been sacked 24 times, second most in the league.
Running back Joe Mixon (428 rushing yards, three touchdowns) did not practice Wednesday with an injured foot. He rushed for a team season-high 151 yards in the Bengals' lone win in Week 4 vs. Jacksonville.
The Browns lead the NFL in rushing (169.5 yards per game) with Kareem Hunt (387 yards) filling in admirably for starter Nick Chubb (knee), who remains on injured reserve. Starting right guard Wyatt Teller (calf) also may miss a second consecutive game after not practicing Wednesday. The defense, led by Myles Garrett's 7.0 sacks, has been weak in the back end where cornerback Greedy Williams (shoulder) remained on IR.
Cleveland rushed for 215 yards, sacked Burrow three times, and Garrett provided a momentum-shifting strip sack to set up a score in the Browns' Week 2 win.
--Field Level Media