Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE
One could argue that the rest of the season is must-win, if the Bengals want to make the postseason. Perhaps it's premature, but every game against division opponents is a must-win at this point.
Cincinnati Bengals fans are feeling it. Even a marquee player on the team admits it. Following disappointing losses against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins, games that most of us tabbed months ago as wins for a projected ten-win season, wide receiver A.J. Green called Sunday Night's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers a "must-win". But it's not just the previous losses for a game having that label. It's the need to beat teams within the division, like the Steelers and Ravens.
"This is a must win for us. We let two slip away from us that we felt we should’ve had, but we can’t go back to those games, so I feel like this is a must win because it’s a division game," Green said before Wednesday's practice. "If you want to take the next step you’ve got to be able to beat those teams, Baltimore and Pittsburgh."
Since Green joined the Bengals in 2011, Cincinnati is a combined 0-5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Against the rest of the NFL they're 12-6, including Cincinnati's wild card loss against the Houston Texans. In fact Cincinnati is 12-4 against teams not named Steelers, Ravens and Texans.
Including losses against the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns earlier this season, Cincinnati is already 1-2 against the division, requiring a win over the Baltimore Ravens during the regular season finale and a sweep against the Steelers to finish the season with a winning record against the division.
"It's big," said quarterback Andy Dalton. "For us to get to where we want to be, we've got to beat teams like that. Hopefully it starts this Sunday. We feel like we've got a good attitude going in. Yeah, we've had the losses, but we're confident in our abilities. For us now, it's just going out and playing and executing."