No guaranteed win this time around

Updated: November 8, 2003, 1:37 AM ET

CINCINNATI -- Uh, oh. Chad Johnson is making another guarantee.

The brash receiver has promised fans something memorable Sunday during a pivotal game in the Cincinnati Bengals' renaissance season.

A big win? No, a little choreography.

"I've got an end zone celebration," he said. "I've got a treat. Y'all come out and support us."

The Houston Texans would love to shut him down and shut him up.

During the Texans' two-year history, no one has gotten under their skin quite like Johnson, who burst into the national spotlight at their expense last year. The Bengals were 0-7 and a national punch line when Johnson flat-out guaranteed that the losing streak would end against the expansion Texans.

The guarantee brought more ridicule -- until it came true.

The Texans were so infuriated by the guarantee that they set out to make Johnson eat his words. Instead, they played like a distracted team and wound up with a 38-3 loss, the most lopsided defeat in their 24-game history.

"We let the whole week leading up to that become too overwhelming for some of the guys," quarterback David Carr said. "We didn't play with enough fire. When someone calls you out like that, you should go out and try to do a little more than we did.

"None of the guys here is going to guarantee anything, but I do see us coming out there harder than we did here last year."

Houston (3-5) is acting like it's the team with something to prove this week. Coach Dom Capers put the score of last year's game up in the team's meeting room during the week, a reminder that some amends have yet to be made.

"That defeat really has been the most significant defeat that we've had since we've been here," Capers said.

A victory Sunday would be one of the more significant ones for the Texans, who have never won back-to-back games. Backup quarterback Tony Banks led them to a 14-10 victory over Carolina last Sunday, and Carr is expected to return from a sprained ankle to start against the Bengals.

It's a chance to show that they can measure up.

"You're not going to be a good football team until you win two games in a row," Carr said.

The Bengals (3-5) also have a chance to show they measure up. A victory would keep them in contention in the weak AFC North and leave them with meaningful games in November -- a real rarity in their little corner of the NFL.

"They're 3-5, we're 3-5, we both need this game," Bengals tight end Matt Schobel said. "We expect them to come in and give us their best shot, no matter what Chad says."

This time, the chatty receiver isn't making any guarantees about the outcome. For one thing, Johnson got out of the prediction business when Marvin Lewis took over as head coach and demanded professionalism.

And, Johnson figures no guarantee -- other than that promise of a touchdown celebration -- is needed to get the Bengals motivated. They were down-and-out last year when he spiced up the week before their first win.

"We were doing real bad at that point in time," Johnson said. "We've been doing well."

They've already surpassed their victory total for last season, and were starting to view themselves as playoff contenders before a 17-14 loss last Sunday in Arizona provided a reality check.

Had they won the game and headed into November with a break-even record, the NFL's worst team since 1991 could have legitimately argued that the bad days were a thing of the past.

Instead, they let the pressure get to them and crumbled. Jon Kitna threw three interceptions -- one was nullified by penalty -- and at least two other passes that should have been picked off.

"You wanted to win that game badly, and you understood that it was an awesome opportunity for this team to really get on a legitimate roll and have no limit," Kitna said. "As disappointing as it was, you have to rebound quickly. That makes this game very crucial."

It'll be crucial for the Bengals' credibility as well. Lewis has been trying to get fans to believe and buy tickets -- they've had more than 10,000 empty seats for each of the last two home games.

So far, they're ignoring him.

"Hopefully they'll come out and enjoy the day," Lewis said. "It's going to be one fine day."

No, that's not a money-back guarantee.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index