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NFL Cincinnati Bengals

5 Reasons Why Cincinnati Bengals Aren’t Serious Contenders

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5 Reasons Why the Cincinnati Bengals Aren’t Serious Contenders

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Marc Lebryk- USA TODAY SPORTS

Ladies and gentleman, the playoffs are finally drawing near. As the final stretch of the regular season takes its course, the fate of each team will become much clearer. Although many will know where they stand in the next couple of weeks, some wild-cards and seeding orders could very well come down to the final regular season game, especially with key divisional matchups looming. When the dust settles and Week 17 comes to an end, 12 talented squads will advance to the playoffs and battle for the right to be called the Super Bowl champion.

However, good regular seasons do not always lead to playoff success. The tricky part is to figure out which teams are primed to make a deep run and which ones will be out by the first round. Thankfully, certain criteria can be applied to help solve this playoff puzzle. There’s no exact science to it, but comparing the competition, analyzing statistics and even looking at recent history can provide a good basis to find out who should (and shouldn’t) be taken seriously.

One such contender, the Cincinnati Bengals, are looking to finish out the season strong and make an impact in January. Currently, they sit atop the AFC North with an impressive 9-4 record. Many believe that their talent level will lead a deep postseason run, citing their top-ten defense, the brilliance of A.J. Green and the impact that rookie running back Giovani Bernard has made. It’s true that those three things make the Bengals a respectable opponent, but after further analysis, there is no way that they will be serious contenders come playoff time. Here are five reasons why:

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5. The Loss of Geno Atkins

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Brett Davis- USA TODAY SPORTS

Earlier in the season, the Bengals suffered a devastating blow to the heart and soul of their defense. Geno Atkins, one of the best defensive tackles in the league, went down with a torn ACL and will not return until next season. The Bengals defense was an elite unit with Atkins at the helm, but going to the playoffs without him seriously impedes their chances of making it past the first couple of rounds.

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4. Dalton's Inconsistancy

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Marc Lebryk- USA TODAY SPORTS

Will we see the good Dalton or the bad Dalton in the playoffs? No one really knows, as his QB rating has been all over the place this season. Dalton is still young, and needs to prove that he can play at a high level week in and week out. Until then, he will not be able to lead his team past the early playoff rounds.

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3. Recent History

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Marc Lebryk- USA TODAY SPORTS

In the past two seasons, Cincinnati has made the playoffs, only to be gone by the first round (both at the hands of the Houston Texans). This trend is bound to continue for a couple reasons. First off, they are essentially the same team that they were in both those years with only a couple of exceptions (plus Bernard and James Harrison, but minus Atkins). Secondly, they will likely be facing a superior opponent, much like they had to in the past two years against the Texans.

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2. Baltimore's Resurgence

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Evan Habeeb- USA TODAY SPORTS

Don't count out the Ravens. The defending Super Bowl champs struggled early in the season, but have won four out of the last five games to put themselves in playoff position. With a 7-6 record, they still have a good chance to catch the 9-4 Bengals. If the Ravens their next two games, and Cincinnati goes 1-1, it will pave the way for a Week 17 battle for division supremacy. If the Ravens beat Cincinnati, like they did earlier in the season, that would knock the Bengals back into a wild card slot. They would then be forced to play either the Colts or the Ravens (for the third time) away from home, not ideal circumstances for any team.

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1. The Powers of the AFC

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Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SPORTS

Unfortunately for the Bengals, they are stuck in a conference with Denver, New England, Kansas City and Indianapolis. Even if they manage to get past the first round, it would be very difficult to defeat the likes of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning especially on their home turf. Even if you put the home-field advantage aside, they lack playoff experience experience as well as the high-powered offense necessary to keep up with either of those teams.