This season the bye week acts like train tracks dividing the nice part of town from the bad part of town. In the Bengals first six games, the combined record of their opponents was 13-21, including the Colts, who haven't won a game yet, and two teams who have only won a single game, the Jaguars and Broncos.
There are two solid teams in there too, just like there are a few nice houses in every crappy part of town. The Bengals defeated the Bills, who are 4-2, at home and they lost to the 49ers, who have a 5-1 record, at hom by a mere four points.
Even though I'm very high on the Bengals right now denying that an easy early-season schedule has something to do with their record would be delusional because it does. Yes the Bengals beat a couple of solid teams but they've also beat a few bad ones.
After the bye week they won't have the luxury of playing mediocre to poor football teams. It gets tougher now.
The combined record of the next four teams the Bengals play is 19-13 and that includes four straight games against AFC North opponents.
First they travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks in CenturyLink Field where they have to battle the 11 players on the field and the famous 12th Man composed of 67,000 screaming fans that are so loud they give the Seahawks a sizable advantage over visiting teams.
Then the Bengals go to Nashville, Tennessee to face the Titans in LP Field. The Titans have been a somewhat surprising team so far this year. They lead the AFC South with a 3-2 record right now. They have a tough defense, Matt Hasselbeck has played well so far this year and of course they have Chris Johnson, one of the best running backs in the NFL. Of course Johnson hasn't been too terribly impressive this season but he has slowly picked up speed and by the time the Bengals come to visit, he may be back to the Chris Johnson that we all know and fear.
Then the Bengals come home to play the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2), who despite looking a little older and slower than usual are a very good team. The Bengals have always struggled against Pittsburgh and their top-ranked defense and this will be the toughest game of the season to this point.
And right after they play the toughest game of their season they top it the very next week when they travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens (4-1). The Ravens have the third-ranked defense in the league right now and their offense seems to be firing on all cylinders. The Bengals have been successful against the Ravens in the past thanks to the fact that Joe Flacco seems to struggle against Mike Zimmer's defense and the defense has yet to allow Ray Rice to run for 100 yards against them.
After the Bengals play Baltimore they get another home game and a small break when they play the Cleveland Browns at home. The Bengals already defeated the Browns this season by a score of 27-17 but the Browns may be a better team by this point of the season.
After the Browns game the Bengals turn right around and travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers for the second time in four weeks.
So it's easy to see that the Bengals' next six games will be much tougher than the first six, but that doesn't mean they won't be successful. This isn't the same Bengals team that we're used to. The Bengals have the capacity to defeat a Steelers team that doesn't look as elite as usual so far this season. They can beat the Ravens who usually struggle against the Bengals.
A playoff berth for the Bengals isn't impossible. It's unlikely, yes, but through the first six games of the season, the Bengals have turned me into a believer. I expected them to be 2-4 at this point. Who knows where they'll be after the second six games.