CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns have changed quarterbacks — again. The Cincinnati Bengals have changed directions.
On Sunday, the NFL's distant Ohio cousins will get together for the first time in 2009. In recent years, their twice-per-season meetings since 1970 have produced wild shootouts and some forgettable please-burn-the-game-film clunkers.
They've also taken turns wrecking each other's playoff hopes. Two years ago, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco bravely hopped the wall into Cleveland's Dawg Pound only to be doused with cold beer by rowdy Browns fans, who have spent this year drowning their sorrows.
Three games in, the winless Browns are a mess, more of a mess than ever.
"We can't do any worse," wide receiver Braylon Edwards said.
Cleveland's offense has scored one touchdown and is ranked 32nd, dead last, in total yards. The defense is ranked 30th and gave up three TDs rushing last week in Baltimore on plays where the Ravens' running back scampered into the end zone untouched.
The Browns have given up the most points (95) and scored the second fewest (29).
What's more, Browns Coach Eric Mangini is under fire for his mishandling of Cleveland's quarterback situation, which became more complicated this week when he benched starter Brady Quinn for Derek Anderson. Mangini switched to Anderson at halftime last Sunday in Baltimore after Quinn threw an interception on Cleveland's first drive and failed to move the offense in a 34-3 loss.
Quinn, whose lifelong dream was to quarterback the Browns, was the eighth QB to start a season for the Browns (0-3) since 1999. He's now the sixth to be benched for reasons other than injury.
"I want to be playing. I want to be starting," said Quinn, who won the job during training camp and then lost it in 10 quarters. "That's the case with a lot of guys in the league. If you don't feel that way, you shouldn't be in the league."
Quinn's demotion didn't send a shock wave through Cleveland's locker room. In fact, players who have been around here for any period of time view it as just another day with the Browns.
"Coach Mangini made a decision that he felt was the necessary action to be taken," Edwards said. "It's something I've dealt with for five years now. I'm not even worried about it anymore. I signed a five-year deal."
Mangini did not give any long-term commitment to Anderson, saying only he would be Cleveland's starter for "this week." Hopefully, Anderson will do better than in his relief role last Sunday, when he threw three interceptions while trying to rally the Browns from a 20-0 deficit.
The Bengals, poster boys for off-field problems in recent years, have no on-field issues.
With quarterback Carson Palmer recovered from an elbow injury that sidelined him for 12 games last season, Cincinnati, which rallied to beat the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time at home since 2001 last week, is playing with confidence and perhaps threatening to make a playoff push.
After an 0-8 start a year ago, they like the feel of winning.
"Man, it's really good," Ochocinco said. "The good thing about starting early is it makes it a lot easier on the back end, not having to sit around and wait on other teams to win games to make sure you're in the playoffs. For us, it's very important. It's good for the city, it's good for the team, it's good for us as a whole. We've got to keep winning."
Palmer brought back the Bengals last week, guiding them on 85- and 71-yard TD drives in the fourth quarter of a 23-20 win. On the drives, Palmer went 10 of 16 for 96 yards. He also completed a 2-point conversion to give Cincinnati its cushion with 14 seconds left.