Bengals Banter: Fans are on top of the world and the players are grounded

Your Cincinnati Bengals are 7-2, leading the division by effectively 2 games with 7 to play. They just got done shutting down Big Ben Roethlisberger and those hated Pittsburgh Steelers (video highlights here and here) Four of those remaining opponents combine for a 6-29 record. The other three may be difficult games, but they're winnable (with the quality of our defense, everything is winnable), at Minnesota, at San Diego, and at the New York Jets. The Bengals are right in the thick of things at the top of the AFC playoff bracket. If the season ended today, the Bengals are the second best team in the AFC, and would be the #2 seed with a first-round bye.

After the jump, MANY links and notes in narrative form!

The really cool thing about this team is that they're level-headed, humble, disciplined, deep, and committed to winning and good public relations (post-game quotes and the press conference from Sunday via Bengals.com). Even Mike Brown is saying the right things. It's kind of funny, actually, because I think Chad Ochocinco has been very well-behaved this year and was very humble and team-first when he was accosted by CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel for supposedly pouting on the sideline today. In my opinion, Doyle was just upset that Chad told him to get lost.

Yesterday, we talked a lot about how awesome the defense played. Apparently, we knew what we were talking about. Scott Priestle from CNati.com gave the D a ton of props in some well-written articles, first singling out Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph (who, if they aren't Pro-Bowl bound yet, really should be) for playing crazy good, shutting down the Steelers top 3 receivers for most of the game.CNati.com also has a really cool photo gallery (Chris Bergman does nice work) every week, and this week is no exception. Other people recognized our awesome defense too. Paul Daugherty wrote that the Bengals out-Steelered the Steelers (I'd like to call it out-Bengaled, but whatever). John Eradi dubs them the "Scrap-Iron Defense" a la Iron Man, a clever, extremely fitting pop-culture reference by backup backer Brandon Johnson. ESPN AFC North Blogger James Walker was all over this one, as even the big-market-loving sports giant heaped some praise onto the Bengal defense.

There was also a rash of talk about how the Bengals are for real. We've seen national press to this end a few times now, after beating Pittsburgh earlier this season, after beating Baltimore (twice), after winning at Lambeau, after crushing the Bears. Every week, the Bengals get for real. Alex Marvez from Fox Sports writes that the Bengals controlled the game yesterday, and refused to let the Steelers dictate the pace on either side of the ball. Clifton Brown of Sporting News wrote that the Bengals swept away skepticism with a punishing defensive performance. Jason Cole commented on the discipline - the small things the Bengals did right - keeping Ben contained in the pocket, taking care of the ball, and not forcing throws down field. I've noticed a few national commenters talking about Carson's (d)evolution to game management. Hey, I'll take wins over stats any day.

The only bad thing that really happened on Sunday was injuries. But, in the wake of the injuries, backups played some winning football, as C. Trent Rosencrans writes. Also, on the Cedric Benson front, the running back expects to play this upcoming Sunday at Oakland, according to Eradi and Reedy.

Finally, Don Banks from SI.com lauds the Bengals in his Snap Judgments column, and Scott Priestle highlights the Bengals' offensive line toughness in his recap of  the game.

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