OK, we have seen this before. Once again excitement is building as the Cincinnati Bengals are poised to qualify for the playoffs for a second consecutive year which has not be done since the 1981 and 1982 seasons. We all have butterflies in our stomachs thinking about the possibilities of not only making the playoffs but making a Super Bowl run. However, disappointment looms due to current struggles against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens who remain on the schedule and their recent unsuccessful playoff appearances.
Since 2009 when the Bengals surprisingly swept the division winning the AFC North title, they have won only one game against Ravens and Steelers. That one win came in week two of the 2010 season against Baltimore. Since then, they have lost nine in a row to these two Division rivals.
This year, however, may be different. The Steelers and Ravens are having issues and are not the usual dominate teams of recent years. The Steelers have lost four of their last five games and the Ravens have lost three in a row. Both teams are suffering through various injuries to key personnel who may not be active when they play the Bengals.
The first season of the Marvin Lewis era (2003), the Bengals surprised everyone with an 8-6 start looking to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 1991. Excitement throughout Bengaldom was eminent with not only making the playoffs, but going to the Super Bowl. Who Dey nation was rocking! Then losses to the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns in the last two games brought us back to the reality of another disappointing season and an 8-8 record. Hearts were broken; foul language spewed.
Since then, the Bengals have qualified for the playoffs three times, twice as Division champs bringing back excitement and hope to Bengaldom of a Super Bowl run. That excitement quickly turned to disappointment with losses in the first round of the playoffs. In the 2005 playoff game against the Steelers, hope was dashed when Kimo Von Oelhoffen felt it necessary to wrench Carson Palmer’s knee on the second play of the game, quashing our excitement and ending what could have been a true Super Bowl team. With Carson being carted off the field, so were our broken hearts and shattered dreams. In 2009 and 2011, it was the same scenario. The Bengals make the playoffs only to get punted out in the first round by the New York Jets and Houston Texans, turning excitement into disappointment.
This season for the Bengals has been rocky with a 3 game losing streak sandwiched between a 3 and 4 game winning streaks. The ship appears to be righted again with the victory over the Philadelphia Eagles after an emotional loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Despite that, this season could be something special and unexpected with the possibly of another playoff appearance. The New York Giants gave their fans something special and unexpected last season becoming the first team to win the Super Bowl with a 9-7 record. Dare I say, the Bengals could do the same?
The Bengals control their own destiny. Win, they’re in. But recent history says the Bengals won’t make the playoffs because of their inability to beat the Ravens and Steelers. And if they do make the playoffs, an early exit is highly possible due to not being able to win a playoff game under Marvin Lewis. Despite this resent futility, could this year be different? Could they not only get to the playoffs by beating the Ravens and Steelers, but actually win a playoff game possibly making it to the Super Bowl?
As Bengals fans, we rarely get to feel this kind of excitement. Normally, disappointment sets in well before the season gets to this point. So are we prepared for the possibility of our present excitement turning quickly into disappointment? I have been called by a number of family and friends the eternal optimist. I always look at things with the glass half full mentality. With the Bengals this season, anything is possible, so why a Debbie downer post? It’s called reality. I carry the excitement of the possibility of each game; but unless the Bengals beat teams they recently have been unable to - and they win a playoff game - does disappointment loom?