Nostalgic reunion for TO, Fitzpatrick
Ryan Fitzpatrick spent two years in Cincinnati as the backup quarterback, then moved on to Buffalo when the Bengals didn't want him anymore. There, he teamed with Terrell Owens on a season that was unsatisfying all around.
Owens moved on, landing in Cincinnati. Fitzpatrick stayed in Buffalo and won the starting job. They meet again on Sunday in a game that says a lot about two franchises that have far fewer than six degrees of separation when it comes to losing.
Try: three wins combined.
''I don't know what you call this game,'' Owens said. ''They're 1-8 and we're 2-7. It's the battle of the worst, I would say.''
In more than one way.
The two northern franchises have been wandering around the NFL's desert for most of a decade - in Cincinnati's case, two decades - unable to string together winning seasons. Both are at low points again when they renew a series that has been dominated by Buffalo lately.
It's a bigger surprise for the Bengals, who won the AFC North last season and thought they were in good shape to repeat - something they've never done in their history - after they signed Owens to upgrade the passing game. Owens has been a good addition, leading the team in touchdowns while watching his words. Everything else has imploded, dragging the Bengals back to their bad old days.
Some fans made the 90-mile drive to Indianapolis last Sunday and wore paper bags over their heads for a 23-17 loss to the Colts. The Bengals now have lost six in a row, the 12th time in the last 20 years that they've had such a long losing streak.
Another loss on Sunday would clinch their 18th non-winning record in the last 20 years, an incredibly bad run in a league where parity tends to even things out.
All the talk about back-to-back titles was abandoned weeks ago. Now, the last-place Bengals are just looking to get a win for the first time since Sept. 26.
''You're so hungry for a win - it's been so long - that you just can't wait to get to Sunday,'' quarterback Carson Palmer said.
The Bills' long wait ended with a 14-12 win over Detroit last Sunday. Even with that, Buffalo has already clinched its 10th season with a non-winning record in the last 11, a streak not nearly as long as the Bengals' but not all that much better.
Like the Bengals, they're at the point where winning even one game is meaningful.
''We're still 1-8, so it's not like you win one football game and the world has changed,'' receiver Lee Evans said. ''I still think we have a lot of work to do, but it is a step in the right direction.''
The next step for the Bills is trying to win two in a row, something they haven't done since the first half of last season. They're not yet to the point where any confidence has kicked in.
''That's a pretty good leap, to go from hoping (to win) to expecting,'' first-year coach Chan Gailey said. ''I think that you take that one step at a time. That's what it was, it was one step that week. If you go throw another one on top of this, then (you) start to believe and expect a little more. We haven't made it yet, that's for sure.''
The Fitzpatrick/TO moves are examples of the franchises' struggles to get it right.
The Bengals decided to get a different backup quarterback after Fitzpatrick threw eight touchdowns and nine interceptions while filling in after Palmer hurt his passing elbow in 2008. They replaced him with J.T. O'Sullivan, who didn't last long. He was released in September after a poor preseason.
In Buffalo, Fitzpatrick has thrown for 14 touchdowns this season and a passer rating of 85.5, which is higher than Palmer's 83. Asked if he was happy to see Fitzpatrick succeeding, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis chuckled and said, ''No, I wish he was still here with us.''
Buffalo could use someone like Owens, who ranks third in the league with 59 catches and third with 834 yards. The Bills let the 36-year-old receiver go after last season, thinking he might be ready to fade at his age. They guessed wrong.
''As you guys have seen this year, he still has the speed,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''He's still an elite receiver in this league. I think we have a mutual respect for each other. It was a tough situation here last year.''
Both are a little nostalgic about going against their former teams on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bills have the upper hand in the series. Buffalo hasn't lost to Cincinnati since the 1988 AFC championship game, winning the last nine in a row. A win on Sunday would match the Bills' best streak against any opponent - they won 10 straight against the Jets from 1987-92.
Given their lowly status, that streak of dominance may not mean anything.
''It's a completely different everything,'' Evans said. ''Everything is different now than it has been.''
Except the losing, that is.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Orchard Park, N.Y., contributed to this report.