CINCINNATI – A lot of very strange twists have brought Jason Campbell full circle.
Just before the trade deadline in 2011, Campbell dislocated his collarbone with his Raiders in position to make the playoffs. That injury during a game against the Browns started a cascade of changes that are still playing out.
Raiders coach Hue Jackson lobbied for Oakland to get the disgruntled Carson Palmer from Cincinnati in a trade, even if it came at a steep cost. The Raiders gave up a first-round and a second-round pick, then failed to make the playoffs. Jackson was fired.
The Bengals used their picks to take cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick in 2012 and running back Giovani Bernard this year. They also hired Jackson as an assistant coach after he was fired by the Raiders.
Campbell? He moved on to the Browns (5-6), who are surprisingly still in contention In the AFC North in mid-November. He'll start on Sunday against the Bengals (6-4) at Paul Brown Stadium, which is Palmer's old place.
Nobody saw that coming.
"Yeah, it's been very strange," Campbell said. "As I always tell the guys, you can never predict anything when you're playing this game.
"Things that happened two years ago when I was out in Oakland and now to see yourself playing for the team you got hurt against, and now playing against the team that made the trade — it's like a whirlwind."
Cleveland's season has been a whirlwind since it traded running back Trent Richardson after only two games. There was more quarterback drama — the Browns have known little else since they returned as an expansion team in 1999. Yet here they are, with a chance to stamp themselves as a playoff contender with a win on Sunday over the division leaders.
The Bengals are feeling a little pressure themselves after two straight overtime losses.
"Those overtime games are tough," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "They're tough on the body, tough on everybody involved. When you have all those plays week in and week out, it definitely carries over to the next week.
"Yeah, I think guys are excited to have an opportunity to kind of right the ship and go out and play the way we want to play."
Five things to watch on Sunday:
HOW DOES CLEVELAND HANDLE ITS BIG MOMENT? The Browns have ached to be taken seriously for years. They haven't won more than five games in any of the last five years. They can get win No. 5 on Sunday and sweep their intrastate series with the Bengals for the first time since 2002. What's more, they can make those late-season games meaningful.
"I think guys are tired of that culture and that mindset of not being relevant in November," tight end Jordan Cameron said.
PERFECT CAMPBELL: The 20th starting quarterback for the Browns since 1999 has shown a little promise. Campbell has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 555 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. He hasn't thrown an interception in 90 attempts. He's trying to become the first Browns passer to have a rating over 100 in three straight games since Bernie Kosar in 1989.
DALTON'S DOLDRUMS: Andy Dalton put together one of the best three-game stretches by any quarterback in Bengals history, helping them gain control of the AFC North. He threw 11 touchdowns passes in three games, a franchise first. But in the last two, he's been dreadful: two touchdowns, six interceptions, 10 sacks. He repeatedly sailed his passes in the wind during a 20-17 overtime loss in Baltimore on Sunday.
HADEN ON GREEN: The Bengals failed to get a touchdown during a 17-6 loss in Cleveland earlier this season. Dalton threw to A.J. Green 15 times, but he caught only seven passes for 51 yards with cornerback Joe Haden covering him closely. Haden has allowed only one touchdown this season by the receiver he's covering.
"I don't do all that hype and that stuff," said Green, who leads the NFL in yards receiving with 1,013. "He's a great corner. I have to go up against him. Nothing different."
GOING OT: The Bengals are the 16th team to lose back-to-back overtime games. They're 1-2 in overtime this season. No team has played three straight overtime games in NFL history. The record for overtime games in a season is five by the 1983 Packers.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org