Ranking the 7 biggest upsets in Battle of Ohio history

10 Sep 2000: Akili Smith #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the game against the Cleveland Browns at the Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Bengals 24-7.Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
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10 Sep 2000: Akili Smith #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the game against the Cleveland Browns at the Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Bengals 24-7.Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

The winless Cleveland Browns have four more chances to get a victory and avoid being the second team in NFL history to go 0-16, starting with Sunday’s renewal of the Battle of Ohio against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Oddsmakers have the Bengals listed as 6-point favorites, which would make it one of the biggest upsets in a series full of them.

The Bengals and Browns began playing in 1970, but NFL point spreads are only archived back to 1978. Since that time, there have been three games in which an underdog of 6.5 points or more has sprung the upset.

Here is a look at the 7 biggest official upsets in Battle of Ohio history, including a surprising twist that features two in the same year in which each team won on their rival’s home field, along with a bonus one that predates the 1978 odds archiving:

No. 7

September 28, 2003 –Cincinnati 21, Cleveland 14 at Cleveland Browns Stadium

The Bengals were off to a 0-3 start in Marvin Lewis’ first season as head coach when the Browns came to down as 4.5-point favorites despite being winless themselves.

Cleveland jumped out to leads of 7-0 and 14-7 on touchdown passes from Tim Couch to Quincy Morgan and Jamel White, but Jon Kitna tied the game with a 55-yard touchdown pass to Chad Johnson with 20 seconds left in the first half for their second hookup of the game.

Kitna added the game-winner on a 1-yard strike to tight end Reggie Kelly with 9:01 left in the third quarter.

No. 6

Sept. 29, 2013 – Cleveland 17, Cincinnati 6 at FirstEnergy Stadium

The 2-1 Bengals were coming off back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in 31 years and were 4.5-point favorites against a Browns team that was 1-2.

But the Cleveland completely shut down the Cincinnati offense, sacking Andy Dalton twice while holding him to 206 yards with an interception and a 58.3 passer rating.

The Browns got all the points they would need in the first half when Brian Hoyer hit Jordan Cameron with a 2-yard touchdown pass. After the Bengals had closed to within 10-6 late in the third quarter, Hoyer connected with Chris Ogbonnaya for a 2-yard score to put the game out of reach.

No. 5

Sept. 10, 2000 – Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 7 at Paul Brown Stadium

Despite going 4-12 the year before, the Bengals were 6-point favorites in their 2000 season opener that marked the first regular-season game at Paul Brown Stadium after a Week 1 bye.

After the 0-1 Browns struck first on a 16-yard run by Miami University product Travis Prentice with 3:23 left in the first quarter, Akili Smith got the Bengals even with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Ron Dugans.

But it was all Cleveland after that as Tim Couch threw touchdown passes to Mark Campbell and Marc Edwards while the Browns defense sacked Smith seven times and intercepted him twice.

No. 4

Nov. 6, 2014 – Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 3 at Paul Brown Stadium

Despite leading the AFC North by just half a game ahead of the Browns, the Bengals were 6-point favorites for a nationally televised Thursday night contest.

It’s still remembered to as the Andy Dalton 2.0 game, referring to career-low passer rating he posted while completing 10 of 33 passes for 86 yards with three interceptions.

The Browns held the Bengals to 165 yards of offense and got touchdown runs from Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West to leapfrog Cincinnati into first place. Since that night, Cleveland has lost 30 of its last 33 games.

No. 3

Sept. 11, 2011 – Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 17 at Cleveland Browns Stadium

The dawning of the Andy Dalton/A.J. Green era began with the Bengals opening the 2011 season as 6.5-point underdogs in Cleveland.

Cincinnati jumped out to a 13-0 lead on two Mike Nugent field goals and Dalton’s first career touchdown pass, a 2-yarder to Jermaine Gresham in the first quarter.

But Dalton suffered a thumb injury late in second quarter and was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski as the Browns scored 17 unanswered points to take the lead.

Gradkowski rallied the Bengals for two touchdowns in the final 4:28, including Green’s first career score on a go-ahead 41-yarder, to pull off the upset.

No. 2

Sept. 16, 2007 – Cleveland 51, Cincinnati 45 at Cleveland Browns Stadium

After beating Baltimore in the season opener, the Bengals were 7-point favorites against a Browns team that lost its opener 34-7 Pittsburgh after going 3-13 the year before.

But neither defense showed up and Cleveland had a little more offensive firepower as the teams combined for 1,085 yards and 96 points, making it at the time the highest-scoring games in NFL history.

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 401 yards and six touchdown passes, including two each to Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, while the Browns got 326 yards and five touchdown passes from Derek Anderson to go along with 216 rushing yards and a score by Jamal Lewis.

No. 1

Dec. 28, 2003 – Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 14

After winning as 4.5-point underdogs in Cleveland in September, the Bengals played host to the Browns as 8.5-point favorites in the season finale and lost.

Cincinnati had won 5 of 7 to up its record to 8-7 as it looked for its first winning season since 1990, while the Brows were 4-11 after losing five in a row and eight of nine.

Rudi Johnson gave the Bengals a 14-13 lead on his second scoring run of the game with 12:15 remaining. But Cleveland’s Lee Suggs scored the go-ahead touchdown with 7:54 to go, and Brett Conway added an 18-yard field goal with 1:13 showing to spring the biggest official upset in Battle of Ohio history.

Bonus Upset

Nov. 23, 1975 – Cleveland 35, Cincinnati 23 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium

The Bengals came into the game 8-1 while the Browns were 0-9 and had been outscored 267 to 99.

Cincinnati rallied from an early 9-0 deficit with touchdown passes from Ken Anderson to Bob Trumpy and Isaac Curtis and a Stan Fritts 4-yard run. And Dave Green put the Bengals ahead 23-12 with a 21-yard field goal in third quarter.

But after Anderson got hurt, the Browns scored the final 23 points, the last of which came on Jim Hill’s 56-yard return of a John Reaves interception late in the fourth quarter.

The Bengals would go on to finish 11-3 and earn the AFC wildcard, while the Browns would finish 3-11.


Next game

Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-12)

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

TV: Ch. 7, 12

Radio: 700-AM, 1290-AM, 1530-AM, 95.7-FM, 102.7-FM, 104.7-FM

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