Many Cincinnati Bengals fans will be hoping that they will be able to look back on their victory over the New York Giants last weekend as a staple win for the season. If that is to be the case, then that victory has to become more just one added number in the win column. It has to become a victory that breathed the belief into the side that caused them to go on a mid-season winning streak.
In somewhat of a surprising twist of fate, the Bengals are actually fortunate to be playing in the AFC North this year. Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens both have better records, the Ravens at 7-2 and the Steelers at 6-3, both teams have significant issues to overcome as well as two games against each other in the coming weeks. Furthermore, the Bengals get to play each team one more time to try and avenge losses from earlier in the year. Even though they lost the first of each matchup, a home game against the Ravens is more than winnable and a Steelers unit at home led by Byron Leftwich shouldn’t intimidate anyone.
More important than anything outside of the franchise itself, is the team’s remaining schedule. The Bengals have seven games left in their season…seven winnable games. After facing the 1-8 Kansas City Chiefs this week, they then face the 3-6 Oakland Raiders, 4-5 San Diego Chargers, 4-5 Dallas Cowboys, 3-6 Philadelphia Eagles as well as the Ravens and Steelers. That means that only their two divisional rivals currently have winning records of the teams on their remaining schedule.
Even though the Bengals’ minds may not be focused on the playoffs right now, nor should they be, the chances of this team sneaking into a wildcard position again this year are higher than one would think at this point of the season. If the Bengals just beat all of the teams on their schedule with winning records, they will finish the year with a 9-7 record. While that is presuming they will beat the worse teams, it also presumes that they will lose to the their division rivals.
Currently, the Steelers and Indianapolis Colts are occupying the wildcard positions in the AFC. Both teams have a 6-3 record,but no other team in the conference is threatening to take them over. The Bengals are one of many teams on the edge of the playoffs with a 4-5 record. In order to get into the playoffs, the Bengals only need to get ahead of one of the two teams. That makes the impact of the Steelers’ tie-breaker less significant, while the Colts are reliant on a rookie quarterback going against a tough schedule.
The Colts face off against the New England Patriots, Houston Texans twice as well as trips to face the Detroit Lions and Chiefs. Even though Andrew Luck has had an outstanding rookie year, he has struggled on the road. Road games against the Patriots, Texans, Lions and Chiefs won’t be easy games for the team as a whole. If the Colts lose all of those games, they would finish the season on 9-7 and the final wildcard spot would come down to a tie breaker determined by conference victories.
While the Steelers hold a tie-breaker, they also don’t have an easy schedule the rest of the way. Two losses to the Ravens are very possible, while a trip to face the Cleveland Browns won’t be easy. The Cowboys are always a wildcard and the Chargers will match up well to the Steelers’ offense.
It’s still a long-shot, but the Bengals definitely can’t be ruled out of the playoff race. At least, not just yet.