Since this is sort of an off-week, I'm going to take the "take it one game at a time" and throw it in the desk drawer for a while. The great thing about being 5-2 is that the Bengals are tied for first place -- in truth, they have a one-game lead because of the team's win over the Steelers earlier in the season. Now, Cincinnati is preparing for another gauntlet with the division's powerhouses against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. If, and that's a big if, the Bengals win both games, they launch themselves to 7-2. Not only did that seem impossible to envision after last season, but sometimes it still seems impossible. Yet, it's very real. And it's very possible.
And we're getting healthy with preparations with a divine-like timing of a bye week.
The Baltimore Ravens had their bye week already last week and host the undefeated Denver Broncos this Sunday. Like the Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers have their bye week this week. On November 9 (a Monday Night game), the Broncos will host the Steelers.
It's an understatement to say that we're going to be hardcore Bronco cheerleaders for two weeks. After each game that the Broncos play the Ravens and Steelers, the Bengals play them the following week. Can the Broncos sustain their undefeated season? Let's say, in a perfect world, the Broncos and Bengals beat both teams. This will give the Bengals at least a three-game edge over the Steelers (two-game lead, plus head-to-head tie-breaker) and a five-game edge over the Baltimore Ravens (four-game lead, plus head-to-head tie-breaker). With seven games remaining, the Bengals chances of making the playoffs aren't just good, they're damned near certain, if not extraordinary. After Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the Bengals host Oakland (2-5) and play the Browns (1-6) and Lions (1-5) -- three teams with a combined 4-16 record -- a .200 winning percentage. That's a potential 10-2 record. Cincinnati heads to Minnesota on December 13 and finishes the season at San Diego, hosting Kansas City and at New York Jets.
Even if they don't win the division, there's a great chance that at least one wild card comes out of the AFC North. The New York Jets are 4-3 and favorites to make the playoffs, at least via the Wild Card. The Bengals play the Jets in the regular season finale.
In a perfect world, the Bengals could define their season by mid-November.
Alright, alright. I pulled the "take it one game at a time" out of my drawer and onto my desk.