Browns/Bengals might mean something, at long last

Yahoo Sports

New season, new questions! Welcome back to the Yahoo Sports NFL Mailbag, where we’re taking your questions via Twitter, Facebook, email, and screaming into the void. Got a question? Hit us up by email at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or see below. Today, our teams discussed include the Bengals, Browns, Falcons, Lions and Chiefs. Let’s roll!  

Could Browns/Bengals in November be a huge game in the AFC North?
@alenin, via Twitter

Browns/Bengals is one of those matchups that seems like it happens eight or nine times a season, much like Giants/Cowboys. (They’re playing AGAIN on Sunday Night Football? Really?) Anyway, most times in recent years it’s been a battle of irrelevancies – nobody outside of Cincinnati cares about the Bengals, and the Browns have been about as tough as wet toilet paper.

But! This year, things are changing! Suddenly the Bengals are in their once-every-three-years competent phase at the same time as the Browns are suddenly somehow interesting! AND the Steelers are pinwheeling into their inevitable slapfight-at-a-sleepover state while the Ravens are, as usual, the football equivalent of wheat toast, useful but utterly bland and forgettable.

So yes, the Nov. 11 matchup between the two teams might have some meaning. Let’s take a look at the schedules heading there: both play Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Cleveland gets the Falcons and the Chargers, while Cincinnati has New Orleans and Baltimore. You’ve got to give Cincinnati the edge head-to-head, but if the Browns can play over their heads – yeah, it’s not exactly a monumental achievement to outrun their tiny shadow of the last few years – we might be looking at a game that has divisional consequences. What a game.

Now that the Falcons have given every team in the division a head start, when do you think they will turn it on?
@FishSticks81, via Twitter

Uh … 2019?

The Falcons are the biggest disappointment of the NFL season to date, and only Jon Gruden’s Raiders are anywhere close. To be fair, injuries have decimated the Falcons defense, and that’s where the problem lies: Atlanta’s dead last in points allowed despite being eighth in points scored. But not even Matt Ryan and the sudden surge of rookie Calvin Ridley can outrun the utter, total collapse on defense. At least their loss to Pittsburgh this past weekend didn’t come in the final seconds, like the previous two.

We’re five weeks into the season, and thanks to a loss, the Falcons are already effectively four games behind the Saints for the division lead. The Panthers look legit, and the Buccaneers, this weekend’s opponent, apparently have the ability to go off and annihilate a defense when the mood strikes. That doesn’t bode well for the division win or the first wild-card spot.

So, yes, it appears that the “no team has ever played in its home stadium in the Super Bowl” streak will remain alive for another year. It’s truly a shame for Falcons fans, given the fact that – for the first time in team history – this is a legitimate would-be dynasty, with that ineffable combination of superstar talent, management investment, and fan interest. And as it always does for every team except freaking New England, the window is closing, and closing fast.

Commercial break!

Hey, Jets fans! Want some real nightmares? Take a look at Joe Montana in green! Boy, that’ll freak you out even more than that beefy dude in the stands OR a talking hot dog.

Lions a playoff team, or nah?
-@CountDownDave, via Twitter

The NFC North is completely upside down right now, with Green Bay and Minnesota faltering and Chicago suddenly looking like a playoff team. And where does Detroit fit into that mix? Sideways, like always.

For Detroit, which is sitting idle this week, it’s all about the schedule. The next two games bring Miami and Seattle, absolute must-wins for playoff hopes. Beyond that, it gets absolutely brutal: Minnesota, Chicago twice, Carolina, and the Rams. They have to win at least three and maybe four of those to have a chance of a wild card. It won’t be easy, but then it’s not supposed to be.

Fun sidelight: this Ringer article makes the case that Stafford could break Drew Brees’s new career yardage record and become the new all-time leader sometime in the 2026 or 2027 seasons. Imagine that: Matthew Stafford, NFL career yardage leader. And the Lions will probably win one playoff game between now and then.

How crazy is it to think Tony Romo could come back out of retirement to return to QB?
Thomas B., via Facebook

At this point? Absolutely crazy. What would Romo have to gain from returning to the field? His bones are already graham crackers, and there’s virtually no situation where he’d set up behind an offensive line that wouldn’t get him crushed into powder. Plus, Romo’s winning accolades as one of the best announcers in the game. Why leave that?

Sure, Romo recently stoked the fires by saying he’s healthier now than he was during his days under center. Of course he is; he hasn’t spent the last year-plus getting beaten into pudding. Don’t do it, Tony.

Now, Jay Cutler? That dude might not be done yet. There’s always San Francisco, baby!

That’ll do it for this week. We want your questions! Hit us up via email at jay.busbee@yahoo.com, on Twitter using the hashtag #AskYahooNFL, on Facebook here, or in the comments below. See you next week!

That’s a lot of orange. (Getty)
That’s a lot of orange. (Getty)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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