There's no doubt that the Cincinnati Bengals have talent. No one can deny the dominance of AJ Green and Geno Atkins. The have widely been recognized as one of the best at their perspective positions in the entire NFL...if not THE best. Fans are now expecting to win. Some are expecting a Super bowl birth. I personally expect a championship.
I know there is a strong feeling on CincyJungle.com that the spotlight will not be advantageous to the Bengals. I've read thread after thread of how this team plays better as the underdog, with a chip on their shoulder. James Harrison has carried the chip on his shoulder to Super bowl wins in 2006 & 2009, and a defensive player of the year award. Most of the line backing core is undrafted free agents. While I believe there is merit to the argument, I think the we have "outgrown" the role of the under dog.
Although it has slowly increased in the last year or two, I know I have been annoyed for decades at the lack of attention the Bengals get. The Cowboys and Jets can both miss the play offs by multiple games, and get 5 times the coverage the Bengals do. We've all heard the jokes about the Bungles and our players arrests. You can succeed as an underdog and still have those perceptions about yourself and your team. No one is going to take us seriously, until we take ourselves seriously. Step up, step out, and embrace the spotlight. It's time for the Bengals to run with the big boys.
Tom Brady lost something like 87 percent of his receptions last year, due to Free Agency and jail. Every poll in the country still has them ranked in the top 7-8 spots in the NFL. "But Will, who CARES about preseason rankings?" YOU should...and I'll tell you why. Teams like the Patriots get the benefit of the doubt where other teams wouldn't. They've earned it. They find ways to win against big teams. Even when I KNOW the Bengals have the better team, I spend every Steelers & Ravens game holding my breath, and gritting my teeth until it's over. We have only beat the Steelers at HOME once or twice since Marvin Lewis GOT to Cincinnati. It's the same reason the Reds lose big series to the Cardinals and lose 3 straight to the Giants after going up 2-0. Only to watch the Giants go on to win the World Series. (I was at game 5, it was painful)
The point I'm trying to make is that the entire city and the entire team needs to own their talent, and DEMAND respect from their respective leagues. Our players need to believe that they are the best team and not disappear in big games. Throughout the second half of last season the Cincinnati Bengals had the #1 defense in the entire league. As soon as we stepped into that playoff game, some players disappeared. You could tell it was too big for them. The offense only managed 6 points, while the defense put up 7. The same thing happens in big regular season match ups. Now you can argue injury, and play calling until the sun comes up, but the point is we need to make a change.
While everyone is entitled to their own opinion this is mine. Until we can stand up at the start of the season, with everyone watching us and judging us, and tell the world we WILL go deep into the playoffs (and then do it) we will never be a top team. It's not enough to be good. We need teams to fear playing the BENGALS, not just fear the talent we have on the team. I've spent most of my life (I'm 29) watching a city that's come to expect mediocrity or worse. We can all agree that things are changing, and I would urge everyone not to shy away from it. It's time to own it.