The Bengals made a huge step in 2013 as they made their way to the playoffs in back to back years for the first time in 30 years. In 2011, the Bengals basically backed their way in (though, don't tell them that), but in 2012, their 10-6 record earned them a wildcard spot. The Bengals were one of a few teams to head to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. If they are able to make their way to the playoffs again in 2013, they'll be one of only a handful of "elite" teams to make the postseason three years in a row.
Only the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons have been to the playoffs in the last three years in a row and only the Bengals, Broncos, Texans and 49ers have a chance at making it into that fraternity with playoff berths in 2013.
Of the teams that have already been to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, three of the four have recently won Super Bowls. Of the teams that have a shot at joining that exclusive playoff club, one was a No. 1 seed last year and another went to the Super Bowl. It's clear that the Bengals are in good company.
Of course, holes must be filled and there are little things here or there that need to be fixed. The Bengals have been successful the last few years in the draft and with four picks in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft, the team has a good chance of vastly improving in the upcoming season.
Just to give some perspective on what the team has a chance to do in 2013, they have never been to the playoffs three years in a row, the Steelers haven't done it since the late '90s and the Bengals would be the youngest team, with Andy Dalton as the youngest quarterback, to pull it off if they pull it off.
Of course, it's really early. The new league year hasn't even begun yet and I'm already talking about the playoffs. That's crazy, right? It's really not. The Bengals may not get a great rap around the country and throughout the league, but there's no question that they're a team on the rise. It will be interesting to see how far they can rise in 2013.