The past 2 games have been great opportunities to create separation in the conference and division. Much like a team down by 7 or more with less than two minutes left in the first half, the Bengals need to kick their 3 and come out strong in the second half of their season by beating the Browns at home this week.
Any hope of a playoff bye rests in this team winning the rest of their games AND receiving help. The Rams have helped us with the Colts already. We take care of them and we have head to head and control of our destiny to the second seed if two of either Carolina, Denver, Baltimore, Miami, and Cleveland can help us out with New England.
However, there is no second seed without a win over Cleveland. There is likely no division without a win over Cleveland. Fans and experts are still stuck in the mid-2000s when the Browns were garbage. News flash, the Browns are good. Just because they're below .500 doesn't mean they can't pull off a run of games. If we don't beat the Browns, they could feasibly go 5-1 in the division.
That's why I've titled this post, "There's only one game left in the season."
Sure, we could lose this game, maybe hold onto the division, maybe sneak into the playoffs as the six seed, but if we want to make a statement about belonging with the big dogs, we've gotta get off the porch and it continues this Sunday at home. We may have been saying that last week was must-win, but this week will determine whether we can right the ship or if we were an early season success with a mid-season implosion that we never recovered from (ala the San Diego Chargers and other has-been, close to great teams).