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The Cincinnati Bengals head into Cleveland at 3-2 following a disappointing four-point loss to the Miami Dolphins.
There are plenty of those that overreact in our little Bengals community, transforming from a purveyor of optimism heading into Week One to the saturation of self-defeated negativity because the Bengals lost by 31 points last month. Then there are those that equally underreact, standing in defiance of a single game played months before the postseason lineup settles with 12 qualified teams.
Yet one could argue both reactions are equally understandable.
Despite there being 15 regular seasons remaining, Cincinnati's loss to the Baltimore Ravens may ultimately impact the Bengals chances to win the AFC North. Granted. Anything could happen from now until January. Baltimore could suffer substantial injuries, slipping on a damp sidewalk leading into the second half of the season and thus leaving the door open for another. As it stands the Bengals are two games behind the Ravens when factoring the loss and resulting tiebreaker implications, which may resolve during the regular season finale between both teams. It's too early to weigh such hearty arguments and it will be too early still one month from today.
On the other hand.
Though Cincinnati's 17-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins could have be an aberration, it could invite serious postseason implications in regards to tiebreakers. Or if Miami is far more "real" than anyone expects, the head-to-head tiebreaker. Rarely do those scenarios enter into people's minds in mid-October, choosing to look to tomorrow and then looking back when tomorrow arrives.
But these premature discussions could breathe dragon's breath if the Cincinnati Bengals are unable to leave Cleveland Stadium this weekend without a win. Along with failing to capture wins in consecutive weeks against teams with a combined 1-8 record when Cincinnati played them, the Bengals would fall to 3-3 with a slate of games against the Pittsburgh Steelers (twice), the Denver Broncos, the New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and the concluding regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens.
Despite being injured and struggling at 2-3 to start the NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will come into Sunday Night's game next weekend with a four game winning streak against the Bengals, the same team that's never beaten Peyton Manning on seven tries, only won one in six games when played in San Diego, that's lost three of the past four against the Giants and three of the past five against the Eagles. Sure Cincinnati will break trends; that was the rage last year. But it must start with a swing of momentum that's developed this weekend against the Cleveland Browns.
We could easily argue that this weekend isn't a must-win. None of you would believe it. In fact it may be one of the single solitary thoughts entering this weekend, without the disclosure of admittance of having a suggestive must-win thought so early this season. If anything the Bengals need tiebreakers while winning division games, beating a team that everyone else has beaten. And they can't fall to 3-3 with a tough stretch of games coming on the schedule.