Cincinnati's week 12 meeting against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium is very critical, if not a must-win game. Though a loss will drop the Bengals to 6-5, fighting off teams like the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans and New York Jets (include the Buffalo Bills if you must), a win secures their position as the sixth seed for this year's NFL playoffs. Additionally a win gives this team additional confidence, amid a two-game losing streak with a trip to Pittsburgh following this weekend for another ultra-critical division game that gives Cincinnati an opportunity to wrestle that fifth seed from Pittsburgh, negating the head-to-head record in tie-breaker scenarios.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is calling this weekend's game a "huge game".
"There would be a sense of purpose even if things had come out differently the last two weeks. But there is a sense of purpose. We know what things are at stake as we go forward here. This is a big game for us – a huge game. Big players need to play big in big games. That is how you become successful in the NFL as a professional – you show up and play in games like this when it is an important one."
Another worry that could become a factor later in the season is that a loss to the Browns gives Cleveland five wins for the season, bringing them within one game of the Bengals and thus entering the wild card picture.