The Bengals lost to the Ravens again in Week 17, but luckily for them, the Jets and Broncos (and Raiders... just in case) lost too, which sets them up for a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. They are scheduled to play in the NFL's first playoff game this season as they go on the road to play the Houston Texans on Saturday afternoon.
Since they lost to the Ravens on Sunday and backed their way into the playoffs, here is what is being said.
+ The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty Writes:
The Bengals lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 24-16. The Ravens know what to do this time of year. They know the roads. They are Decembrists. You like to think the Bengals are learning. But judging from this particular Sunday – and every other big-game Sunday so far this season – they’re not yet ready to take the wheel.
+ Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver Writes:
The Bengals, who suffered a 24-16 home defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, "earned" the final wild-card spot despite losing five of their final eight games, going 0-7 against playoff teams and beating just one opponent (the 9-7 Titans, against whom they won a tiebreaker) with a winning record.
+CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco writes:
Where are all the good, young offensive coordinators? That's the trouble with trying to find a coach this season. That's why Bengals coordinator Jay Gruden will get a shot, even though he's in his first season running the Cincinnati offense.
+CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel Writes:
And now it could continue next week at Houston, where the Bengals will face a suddenly vulnerable Texans team that has lost three straight games, none of them against postseason competition. What's more, the Texans have a possible controversy at quarterback. Rookie T.J. Yates, so impressive in emergency starts against Atlanta and (yes) Cincinnati, couldn't beat Carolina or Indianapolis, and then on Sunday he was knocked from the game with an apparent shoulder injury. Will Yates be ready for the Bengals? Or will the Texans not even worry about it and stick with veteran Jake Delhomme, whose numbers were solid in relief on Sunday?
+Doyel also writes:
The Ravens have the talent and experience to expect a Super Bowl berth. The Bengals aren't there -- there is talent in Cincinnati's locker room, but almost zero postseason experience -- but they have something almost equally compelling: They are catching the breaks at the right time.
It started last week when they beat Arizona 23-16 after Cardinals receiver Early Doucet inexplicably tripped on fourth down as he was about to haul in the game-tying touchdown.
It continued Sunday, when the Jets lost earlier in the day, and then the Raiders and Broncos lost as well, meaning the Bengals could lose to Baltimore -- as they did, of course -- and still win the AFC's second wild card.
+ FoxSports.com's Brian Billick writes:
Some people have labeled the Bengals entry into the playoffs as "backing in" because of their losing to the Ravens, yet still qualifying for the tournament. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my opinion, the Bengals can go in "walking tall." The expectation for Cincinnati was minimal given its youth on offense, starting a second-round rookie quarterback and going through the culture change from a me-first mentality to a team-first mindset in 2011. Most predicted a sub-.500 season for the Bengals, and rightfully so. For my money, Marvin Lewis is a heavy consideration for coach of the year. Not only are they deserving of the playoff spot, but I believe they will beat the No. 3 seeded Houston Texans in Houston during the wild-card round. Bravo.