The Monday Touchdown: Playoffs

Even though the Bengals lost to the Ravens in Week 17, a game they needed to win to control their own destiny and lock a spot in the playoffs, the Jets, Broncos and Raiders helped them out. With a Jets loss to the Dolphins earlier in the day, they only needed either the Broncos or the Raiders to lose to back their way in to the post season. Luckily, the Broncos lost to the Chiefs (before the Raiders lost to the Chargers) and before the game was over the Bengals knew that they were going to the playoffs no matter the outcome of the game they were playing.

Having said that here are seven thoughts from the Bengals Week 17 game against the Ravens

Point One: The Bengals are in the playoffs!

It doesn't matter how they got there, all that matters is that they are there. There are 12 teams in the playoffs and they all have 0-0 records and it doesn't matter what they did in the regular season. If the Bengals beat the Texans, they go to New England, who is not unbeatable, and if they win there they go to the AFC North championship.

Maybe I'm getting too far ahead of myself but the fact that the Bengals are in the playoffs is so exciting, especially considering where we thought they would be in the beginning of the season, that I can't help myself.

Point Two: Even though they're in, it would be nice if they were 10-6

The Bengals needed to win that last game more than the Ravens did before they knew that the Broncos and Raiders both lost. If they had lost they were out of the playoffs and if the Ravens lost, they would have still made it in as a wild card team. Instead of going all out, they came out flat and then tried to bounce back in the second half like they usually do. That may work against the lesser teams in the league but it does not work against the Ravens and it will not work in the playoffs.

Point Three: Ray Rice was a killer in 2011

Heading into the 2011 season, the Bengals had never allowed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice to run for over 100 yards against them. The most he had ever rushed for against the Bengals was 87 yards before this season. In Week 11 he ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns and in Week 17 he ran for 191 yards and another two touchdowns. If you discount the Bengals' mistakes in those two games, their inability to stop Rice was the biggest reason they lost.

Point Four: Gresham needs to be used like this every week

Jermaine Gresham led the Bengals in receiving on Sunday with five receptions for 72 yards. A.J. Green was bottled up throughout most of the game because Ed Reed was shading to his side and even though Simpson was targeted a team high 10 times, he only had five catches for 54 yards.

For the Bengals to win in the playoffs, not only does A.J. Green need to run free but Gresham needs to have a similar game. His 72 yards in Week 17 is the second best game of his career and it would nice to see him do the same thing.

Point Five: Benson or Scott?

Benson carried the ball 13 times for 51 yards (3.9 yards per carry) against the Ravens in Week 17. He ran much tougher in the second half than in the first and managed not to fumble the ball, but he was also held out of the end zone and didn't really do much of anything. Scott carried the ball six times for 34 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and scored the team's only touchdown on a 25-yard run.

I don't trust Benson after fumbling the ball five times in Weeks 15 and 16 and he hasn't been able to run for over 100 yards three times this season. Scott showed that he is a much more explosive back than Benson is and even though he doesn't have the durability to be an every-down back in the NFL, I'd like to see an almost even split of carries on Saturday against the Texans.

Point Six: Mixed bag with Maualuga

Even though he led the team in tackles with nine against the Ravens, he was completely taken out on Rice's two long touchdown runs. On the first one he was blocked by Marshall Yonda and on the second he was blocked by Vonta Leach. Had he been able to shed either of those blocks and make a stop on Rice, we could be talking about a very different game.

All in all, though, Maualuga had the best regular season of his career and he probably would have had over 100 tackles had he not had to sit out for three games with the ankle injury.

Extra Point: Chances....

I felt that the Bengals had a good chance to beat the Steelers in the playoffs in 2005, that is until Carson Palmer went down. Even though the Bengals hosted the Jets in 2009 for another playoff game, I had a terrible feeling heading into that game. As it turned out, I was right.

I don't know why, but right now I like the Bengals chances to win in Houston. It's just a gut feeling right now but I think we may see our first Bengals playoff victory since 1990. That win, ironically, was over the Houston Oilers.

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