Updated: 5:40 p.m.
After two tight losses to the Steelers and Ravens at the top of the division, Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said Monday he fears no letdown for the 4-6 Browns next Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
"I think we're more (mad) than anything," Whitworth said. "And rightfully so. Anybody who has been watching us or has been around us knows that we have the talent to beat those teams. We just haven't done it.
"Yeah, we gave them a run for their money and, yeah, they know they played great games against us and still both of them barely got away. But we get another crack at it this week. It's Cleveland and it's another game we have something to prove because the last time we beat them late and this time we have to jump on them and stay on them."
» Head coach Marvin Lewis on Monday on wide receiver A.J. Green's (knee) status for the Browns: "We'll see."
» Whitworth and the offensive line brilliantly kept the Ravenous Baltimore pass rush from Andy Dalton until the last three snaps when they tried to tie the game in the red zone. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden took the blame for the second-down snap, when running back Brian Leonard was in a mismatch with outside linebacker Terrell Suggs even though there was just a three-man rush and it led to an intentional grounding call on Dalton.
"Bad design, bad call," Gruden said Monday. "They faked the blitz and we slid the protection to Suggs, but it's got to be a quick throw and it wasn't."
And on the fourth-down sack, Gruden said Dalton changed the cadence at the line to beat the play clock and everyone got the new count but Whitworth and that's why he was still in his stance when rookie end Pernell McPhee beat him around the corner.
» Lewis, a member of the NFL Competition Committee that tried to clarify last March the rule that blew up on the Bengals in Sunday's game, didn't want to spend much time talking about tight end Jermaine Gresham's nine-yard touchdown catch that got overturned by the officials.
But by his own count, he spent about half of Monday's news conference dealing with a complicated rule that fails to satisfy the committee's own charge: Make it so 50 people in a bar can understand it.
Lewis did say he wants one thing clarified from the NFL office.
"I think Jermaine performed a second act in reaching the ball. He got two feet clearly down, and performed a second act of reaching the ball," Lewis said. "So only that. I don't see how you can overturn it not being conclusive. With the second act, you're talking about a time differential and how long is long enough. In other words, my feet are down in the field of play on one end of the end zone, I've crossed the plane of the end zone with the ball in possession, now how long do I have to hold it before somebody can knock me down? So those are the things; that's all. It's no big deal. It's over, it's not going to change."
» With another sack Sunday, Geno Atkins moved into a tie for leading all NFL defensive tackles with 5.5 sacks, joining Philadelphia's Cullen Jenkins and Oakland's Tommy Kelly. He's also got a shot at Dan Wilkinson's club sack record for tackles with eight, set in 1995.
» As they always love to say, if the season ended today … the Bengals would be the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture at 6-4. But, of course, the only thing ending today is the angst over the American League MVP announcement.
It's way too early for scenarios, unless you're into quantum physics because the Bengals are only a game out of the AFC North lead and there are four 5-5 teams chasing them for that second wild card spot in Denver, Tennessee, New York and Buffalo.
At the very least, you can see which teams have the easiest and toughest roads in the last six games. Thanks to the presence of three division leaders left on their sked—Ravens, Steelers and Texans—the Bengals have the hardest stretch left when stacked against the 5-5 teams.
Bengals foes have a winning percentage of .500 compared to the Jets (.424), Titans (.433), Broncos (.467), and Bills (.475). The Bengals have the edge on the Titans and Bills in head to-head, but not Denver, and they are tied with the Broncos with a 5-3 record in the AFC.
The Jets, who are 4-5 in the AFC, have the Bills, Chiefs and Dolphins left in the conference with only Miami on the road in the AFC, teams that are a combined five games under .500. The Bengals face AFC teams that are a combined 10 games over .500, but the two NFC West waiting for them—St. Louis on the road and Arizona at home—are combined 5-15.
Things change as soon as Monday night with the 4-5 Chiefs playing the presumed AFC East champ Patriots. According to Elias, if the Pats win, the seeding would look: Houston, New England, Baltimore, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati. If the Pats lose, it would be Baltimore, Houston, New England, Oakland, Pittsburgh Cincinnati.
Here are the remaining strength of skeds left for those three other clubs besides Denver in the AFC West, where two games separate the division: The Chiefs (.671), the Raiders (.592), and the Chargers (.550).