It's hard to boast about a matchup when you and your opponent don't even have the best rivalry in your own division, let alone your own conference.
Not that Cleveland Browns or Cincinnati Bengals fans are ready to do any bragging.
Still, with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens aging, and with a plethora of young offensive stars flourishing in the Buckeye State, could the two franchises founded by Paul Brown be next up as top dogs in the AFC North?
One prominent Ohio NFL fan hopes so.
"To have a true, effective rivalry, it helps when both teams are playing at the top of their respective games, like you see the Steelers and Ravens are right now," entertainer and Cincinnati native Nick Lachey told ThePostGame. "So the Bengals have fared a little better over the past decade or so than the Browns, but it’s been times for both franchises for a while now. It’d be good to see Ohio football be back on its feet."
And while Buckeye State fans should probably be more excited about Ohio State football than either of their NFL teams, it's not too far-fetched to think that the Bengals and Browns are closing in on consistent success.
Most importantly, both teams feature talented, young quarterbacks with promising futures. Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Cleveland's Brandon Weeden, both in either their first or second year in the NFL, rank in the top 20 in passing yards on the season. They're both averaging more yards-per-game than established veterans like Jay Cutler and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Thanks to some high draft picks, the organizations have surrounded Dalton and Weeden with notable offensive weapons. In Cleveland it's rookie Trent Richardson, whose 209 rushing attempts are fifth among all running backs. In Cincinnati it's 24-year-old A.J. Green, who leads all receivers with 10 touchdown receptions.
"I like what the bengals are doing," Lachey said. "I obviously like Dalton and Green, what’s not to like there? I think the future is looking good and we’ve got some good young pieces in place. If we continue to build on that, we should be contenders for a while.”
The Bengals and Browns are also young teams, at least compared to the other two squads in their division. Going into the 2012 season the Ravens (21st) and the Steelers (25th) both ranked in the oldest third of the NFL in age. Meanwhile the Bengals (11th) and the Browns (3rd) were in the youngest third.
The Bengals-Browns matchups of the next few years may not be as intense as those of the Ravens and Steelers, but all signs indicate that Cincinnati and Cleveland fans can be optimistic about the quality of football in their state going forward.
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