Certainly there's some wondering why the national recognition for the 5-2 Bengals is so slow to gain momentum. After all this is a team many predicted would be the worst in the NFL; some going so far as to say that this team wouldn't win a single game in 2011. If a team that combined Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens could only string together four wins (three really, considering both receivers were out against the San Diego Chargers), then what chance does a team with a rookie quarterback and wide receiver have, compounded by a defense that ranked as a pedestrian 15th in 2010 with roughly the same personnel?
We suspect that for the national recognition to follow, the Bengals still need that statement game. One could argue that that win came against the undefeated Buffalo Bills in week four. Those statement games will come, with four of the next five games against teams that are either leading their respective divisions or only a game behind. Their four games in November are against teams with a combined 18-11 record after October featured opponents winning nine of 28 games.
Some immediately point to the Bengals easier schedule as a reason they're winning. I would only point out that like all good teams, the Bengals are beating the teams that they should beat. Additionally before their 25-17 win over the New England Patriots, the crowing achievement for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year was a 38-17 win over the Tennessee Titans. Did people talk about Pittsburgh's easy schedule when they beat the Seahawks, Colts, Jaguars and Cardinals? No. But they also had their statement game against the Patriots last weekend.
The Bengals are heading into their toughest part of the schedule now, winning five of their first seven games. So we know that they can win. And if they beat the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens (or two out of those three games), then there's doubt that the Bengals will be recognized as one of, if not the best, teams in the AFC. Now it's time for those statement games.
+ Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports writes:
Bengals rookie wide receiver A.J. Green continues to play like a veteran and make fools of us who predicted that Julio Jones of Atlanta would be the better as a rookie (yeah, that includes me). Green had four catches for 63 yards and his 43-yard touchdown helped give the Bengals a 17-3 first-half lead.
+ Charley Casserly of CBSSports.com writes:
The Bengals raised their record to 5-2 and, like Detroit, won a game they needed to win to be a playoff team, beating an inferior team on the road. They did it even though they were missing two key starters on offense in RB Cedric Benson and TE Jermaine Gresham. The Bengals schedule gets tougher in the coming weeks as they have to play the Steelers and Ravens twice. I think their defense will be solid in those games. QB Andy Dalton has played very well so far. The best thing he is doing is reading the defense quickly and getting the ball out quickly to the right receivers. The Bengals are an example of a team buying into the philosophy of the coaches and playing as team, not a divided locker room like they had a year ago.
+ Clark Judge of CBSSports.com writes in observation of Seattle's special teams:
After surrendering two returns for touchdowns in the season opener, the Seahawks thought they plugged the worst leaks. They were wrong. Cincinnati ripped off three long returns, including one for a 56-yard touchdown. A year ago, the special teams were a strength for Seattle; now they're a liability. So is virtually everything else.