I wonder... about the remainder of the season

Are the Ravens a good team or do they benefit from a nice 2005-third-place schedule?

I'm not going to completely disregard the Ravens 9-3 record -- no matter how you look at it, winning nine games in a season in the NFL is impressive. But at this point, the Ravens have only beaten three teams that currently have a winning record -- Chargers (9-2), Saints (7-4), Cincinnati I (7-5). Only three AFC teams have an easier strength of schedule (San Diego .447, Jacksonville .471, Miami .471) than Baltimore (.478). I'm not big on hypotheticals and "ifs", but I have no problem saying, whether Cincinnati's record reflects it or not, that Cincinnati is the best team in the division.

Do the Bengals have a enough time to pick up the AFC North title?

On paper, it's going to be tough. Most people expect a 3-1 finish will enable Cincinnati to make the playoffs -- which is the most realistic of both scenarios to make the post-season. With four games remaining, the Ravens have the Chiefs, Browns, Steelers and Bills. If the Chiefs (common opponents) and Steelers (division record) beat the Ravens while the Bengals win out, we could win the division via tie-breaker. I think that's entirely possible, but I'm not sure the Bengals can top the Colts and who knows how the Broncos will react with a rookie quarterback.

...Not to Mention.

Of the four final games for Cincinnati, two are on the road (Indianapolis and Denver). But the Bengals 4-2 road record, in itself, is impressive. Only the Colts (4-1) and Patriots (5-0) have a better road record than Cincinnati in the AFC while three other teams (Denver, San Diego, Baltimore) have similar 4-2 records. Since 2005, the Bengals are 10-4 on the road.

Based on points allowed, could this be Marvin Lewis' best defense?

The Bengals have given up 240 points so far this season. If the Bengals allow less than one touchdown per game, this will officially become the best scoring defense during the Marvin Lewis era. The Bengals gave up 384 points in 2003, 268 in 2004 and 350 in 2005. However, before the current three game winning streak with a defense allowing only 23 points, they were on pace to allow 385 points. Now they're on pace to allow 320.

Based on head-to-head match-ups, are the Bengals the best team in the AFC North?

It's a nice argument -- and pointless -- that the Bengals have a great record against the AFC North. Cincinnati is 11-2 in their past 13 games against the division.

DATE RESULT
11/30/06 Beat Baltimore, 13-7 (home)
11/26/06 Beat Cleveland, 30-0 (away)
11/5/06 LOST Baltimore, 20-26 (away)
9/24/06 Beat Pittsburgh, 28-20 (away)
9/17/06 Beat Cleveland, 34-17 (home)
12/11/05 Beat Cleveland, 23-20 (home)
12/4/05 Beat Pittsburgh, 38-31 (away)
11/27/05 Beat Baltimore, 42-29 (home)
11/6/05 Beat Baltimore, 21-9 (away)
10/23/05 LOST Pittsburgh, 13-27 (home)
9/11/05 Beat Cleveland, 27-13 (away)
12/5/04 Beat Baltimore, 27-26 (away)
11/28/04 Beat Cleveland, 58-48 (home)

Are we bound to lose Sunday against Oakland?

I would support the argument that the Bengals could fall into a trap game next Sunday against Oakland. They played their butts off playing three games in the span of 12 days. The game after Oakland is a Monday Night showdown against the Colts. Now the Raiders are perhaps the league's best joke, which concerns me. Remember, the Bengals (read: the refs) handed Tampa Bay their first win this season. Hopefully that's the only trap game because a loss to Oakland puts any post-season in serious jeopardy.

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