CLEVELAND - It shouldn't be difficult getting the message across to any of the Browns or Pittsburgh Steelers.
A win today at First Energy Stadium will keep slim playoff hopes alive for the victor. A loss means that plans for offseason vacations can be formalized.
In what is a rare happening, the teams enter the AFC North Division game with identical 4-6 records. Usually by the last Sunday of November the Steelers are ahead of the Browns in the standings and zeroing in on the playoffs.
It's been a wacky season for both teams. The Steelers opened the season with four consecutive losses, causing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to claim that they are the worst team in the NFL.
The Browns were 3-2 at one point after a three-game winning streak. At that time it seemed likely that they would finish ahead of the Steelers in the standings for the first time since 1989.
That prospect doesn't seem as likely today. The Browns have lost four of their last five games, while the Steelers breathed life back into their season with wins in four of the last six games.
Given the Steelers penchant for reeling off a succession of victories, it wouldn't be shocking if they make a serious run at a postseason berth.
"If you're asking me, my opinion is, it's one game at a time," Roethlisberger said of making the playoffs. "We're 0-0 and this is the most important game of the season and we're trying to get one win."
The Browns will need a better performance from quarterback Jason Campbell than what he showed in a 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. Campbell claims sore ribs from two weeks earlier didn't hinder him, but there was evidence that he didn't move as well.
"It's a matter of getting back into rhythm," Campbell said. "I felt like I never got into a rhythm in the game. We never got going offensively like we're used to. We have to get faster at doing everything and have a little more sense of urgency."
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski is confident Campbell will return to the form he displayed in a 24-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens three weeks ago.
"Just seeing him, being around him, knowing what he's made of," Chudzinski said. "Also, just looking at his past and all of the things that he's battled back from, and he has the experience of doing that. That's what really defines quarterbacks in this league, because hey're going to go through some rough stretches and have some rough games."
Facing the Steelers defense usually isn't the recipe for returning to form, but this is a different year. The Steelers are 14th in total defense in the NFL and 26th against the run.
"They went through a period where they were giving up some big plays," Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "They haven't given up as many big plays and they're playing better defense.
"It's a lot of the same cast and characters, and they're awfully good. They're extremely well coached; they always have been. If you're going to make plays on them, you have to go beat them and you have to execute."
The opposing defenses are similar in concept. Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton is a disciple of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau from his days as a player and a coach.
"Probably identical," Horton said of the defenses. "As far as alignment, calls, words, verbiage identical. I stood behind their offense and watched them practice all the time. Whether there are code words or whatever, I don't think they'll change, and I don't think we'll change. Everybody uses the same stuff.
"I think it helps because they (the Steelers offense) see it all the time, but then so does our offense. So, I don't think it gives a team an advantage one way or the other."
This might be as even as it gets for teams that have been far apart in talent for a long time.