5 Players Who Mean the Most to a Cincinnati Bengals Playoff Run
5 Most Important Bengals to Playoff Run
The Cincinnati Bengals made the playoffs the last two seasons, and lost in the Wild Card on both occasions to the Houston Texans. Now, with the Texans riding a 12-game losing streak, that exact scenario cannot go down, but they can still lose in the first round if players don't step up.
Of course, getting to the playoffs is not a sure thing still. Because the Pittsburgh Steelers beat them 30-20 this past Sunday night, they could still lose the division to the Baltimore Ravens, and potentially lose the Wild Card to the Miami Dolphins or even San Diego Chargers if many things go wrong for all of the aforementioned teams.
For Cincinnati to clinch the playoffs this week, they need to beat the Minnesota Vikings -- which should be doable -- and have either the Ravens or Dolphins lose. If that scenario does not take place, the game in Week 17 will be for the AFC North division crown against Baltimore. Of course, the Ravens do play the New England Patriots this Sunday, so them losing is a very real possibility. The Dolphins, on the other hand, play the Buffalo Bills, so it'd be a disappointment if they fell in that contest.
Personally, I see the Bengals winning and Ravens losing this weekend, so Week 17 will really only matter to the Ravens in a Wild Card aspect, and I expect the Bengals to have already clinched the division.
So, with the playoffs very much in reach for Cincy, here are the five most important players to their potential postseason run.
5. Vontaze Burfict
Vontaze Burfict has been an absolute animal for the Bengals this year. The second-year linebacker out of Arizona State is all over the field every Sunday for this team, and his presence is huge. In 2013, Burfict has 151 tackles (100 solo), one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and an interception. If their defense is successful in the playoffs, he'll be a main reason why.
4. Giovani Bernard
Rookie Giovani Bernard can be considered a major missing piece from their offense the past two years. With only one reliable weapon on that side of the ball in A.J. Green the past two seasons, Bernard will be someone who can maybe help pick things up and keep the ball moving. Against the Texans in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 postseasons, their offense would stagnate with no one but Green to turn to, so Bernard's impact should be huge for the Bengals.
3. A.J. Green
As just mentioned in the previous slide, Green has been the only reliable option for the Cincinnati offense the past two seasons. This year, however, the combination of Bernard and tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham should be enough to open up the field a little more in the playoffs. Green is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but he can't do it alone, as evidenced by the last two playoff appearances.
2. Carlos Dunlap
It seems like every postseason lately, teams who can get after the quarterback have the most success. In the case of the Bengals, Carlos Dunlap needs to continue what he's done this season and pick up the slack left by the void of Geno Atkins' torn ACL. He has 51 tackles on the year and leads the team with seven sacks. If the Bengals want to advance in the playoffs for the first time with this young team, Dunlap will have to step up and pressure the opposing QB consistently.
1. Andy Dalton
Of course, the most important player for the Bengals this postseason will be Andy Dalton, the third-year QB out of TCU. Dalton has struggled a bit in their last two playoff appearances, but some of that might have had to do with a very strong Texans defense. Whoever he ends up playing in the Wild Card and beyond, the only defense he could face that might be as good as Houston's D the past two years would be the Kansas City Chiefs. Either way, he's going to need to be up to the task and put up enough points for them to move on from the first round. He's the key to the Bengals having postseason success.