ESPN: Cincinnati Bengals Unlikely To Return To The Playoffs In 2013

Andy Dalton, "Me no like!!" (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Milestones. The destruction of trends become a popular storyline last season when the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Buffalo Bills for the first time since 1988. Then they beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville for the first time since 1995, snapping a seven-game losing streak, and the Seahawks soon after, winning their first game in Seattle since 1994. There were others, but you get the point.

This year's initial milestones began as a two-fold proposal. Will the Bengals return to the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1981-82 and can Cincinnati win their first postseason game since 1990? The former dictates the latter.

ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton doesn't see the Bengals returning. Why? Aside from being the demon spawn of the national media that feeds on the innocence of children, it has more to do with Cincinnati's chances of getting past Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

It's not the schedule in this case. The Bengals go from a .492 to a .500. The problem is the division. Until the Bengals show they are better than the Steelers and Ravens, they are fighting for the sixth seed. A team from another division with an easier schedule has a better shot.

Though we want to shred this as another "never get respect" reaction from the national media, there is a point here. Despite going to the playoffs last year as the No. 6 seed, the Ravens and Steelers both swept the Bengals, who have gone 1-7 against both teams in the past two seasons.

That being said the Bengals swept the entire division in 2009, and one could argue that this year's squad is actually a much stronger group, compared to the Ravens and Steelers who have lost key personnel to free agency and injury.

Either way it's always a foregone conclusion that for the Bengals to return to the postseason, it will go through Pittsburgh and Baltimore. It always does.

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