(Sports Network) – If the setting were a few blocks down the Ohio riverfront, the discussion would change.
There, within a few long TD passes of Paul Brown Stadium at Great American Ball Park, any pre-weekend chatter likely centers around the dubious fan bases of Tampa Bay and Cincinnati – and why neither city has been able to yield consistent capacity crowds for playoff-caliber baseball teams.
Of course, if that were the topic, the fact that the Rays and Reds combined for precisely six hits, one run and zero wins in Wednesday’s American and National league division series openers wouldn’t help.
Good thing it’s a football dialogue instead.
On the gridiron, gathering enough passers-by to watch the Buccaneers and Bengals hasn’t been as big a concern as the teams have combined for four wins in seven games and 172,318 attendees in three home dates through four NFL weeks.
And what’s actually occurred on the field has been entertaining enough to warrant a return.
The Bengals, a surprise playoff entrant last season, have gone two-up, two- down in their initial four games of 2010 and look forward now to a stretch of three home dates and a bye in the next five weeks.
A sign of possible good fortune is the sudden arrival of wide receiver/cartoon character Terrell Owens, who had his best game with his new team last week – catching 10 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown in a 23-20 road loss at Cleveland.
Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Owens had accounted for just 152 yards on 14 catches through three weeks as he struggled to find productivity alongside established No. 1 aerial threat – and legitimate contender for most comical personality – Chad Ochocinco.
The dual targets allowed quarterback Carson Palmer to rack up 371 yards in Week 4, his highest total since eclipsing the 400 mark (401) against Cleveland in 2007.
That said, two Palmer fumbles resulted in two Browns field goals in a three- point game.
“Too many mistakes at timely times,” offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “We had the fumble early that killed us on a drive. We were moving the football. And to have the other fumble, both of them are tough. But there at the end we had a chance to win it, we just didn’t come up with enough plays.”
Playing the visitor role this weekend are the Bucs, who were off last Sunday after taking a 38-13 loss to Pittsburgh in Week 3 that ended a two-game win streak.
Tampa Bay was unable to continue the same grind-it-out, opportunistic mojo against the Steelers that had translated into schedule-opening 17-14 and 20-7 wins against Cleveland and Carolina, which may prompt a slight change in personnel.
Cadillac Williams started in Weeks 1 and 2, but a 2.5-yard per carry average and the team’s failure to generate 100 yards in either of the last two games could prompt more work for youngsters LeGarrette Blount and Kareem Huggins.
Blount, the notorious former Oregon star claimed from the Tennessee Titans prior to the season, carried six times for 27 yards and a late touchdown against the Steelers. And Huggins, a second-year-pro from Hofstra, had been nagged by injuries but looks ready to return.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris played and was later an assistant at Hofstra.
“Hopefully we get Kareem back this week off the injury bug and LeGarrette has earned the right to have a helmet on, at least,” Morris said. “So that will definitely be part of the talks this week. Cadillac has been out there and running. He’s our guy that gets us going in the right direction. We’ll be fired up to go see these guys play. We’ll be fired up to get them their touches and get them their runs.”