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Erratic AFC is why Bengals remain in NFL Playoff Picture

The AFC lacks elite teams, which is why the Bengals can not only make it to the NFL playoffs, but also make a playoff run when they get there.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations for the Cincinnati Bengals were high when the season began, and a red-hot 3-0 start did nothing to suppress the belief that this team was a Super Bowl-contender.

Then came October, when Cincinnati went four weeks without getting a win (bye, tie and two losses). It looked like they had their weaknesses exposed in addition to several costly injuries that made them look like a team bound for a losing record at 3-2-1.

Now, the Bengals are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. So, what are the 2014 Cincinnati Bengals exactly?

It's simple really: They're like every other team in the AFC with a winning record: Talented, erratic and almost just as capable of winning the conference as they are getting ousted in their first playoff game.

The latter has been the end result for the Bengals every year under Marvin Lewis, but in a conference where a team looks elite one week, then goes in the the tank the next, the Bengals are certainly capable of making a playoff run.

The Chiefs are riding a three-game winning-streak following an 0-2 start to this year, which includes a blowout loss at home to the Tennessee Titans, one of the four or five worst teams in football.

Those same Chiefs crushed the Patriots by a score of 41-14 in Week 4. Those same Pats have now hammered the Broncos and Bengals at home, and those two led their respective AFC divisions going into Week 10.

Then there's the Chargers, a team that began the year 5-1, including a win over the defending Super Bowl-champion Seahawks, but they've now lost three straight games following a blowout loss to the Dolphins.

Speaking of Miami, this is a team that's manhandled the Patriots and Chargers, but also has been manhandled by the Chiefs and Bills.

And then there are those aforementioned Bills. A road win at Detroit and a home win over Miami are their only notable wins, and they've also been dominated by the Patriots and Chargers at home while losing to the Texans on the road.

And finally, we have the AFC North, where every team has a winning record and looks to be in the thick of the playoff picture. The Browns possess home wins over the Saints and Steelers, but have also lost to the Jaguars and barely squeaked by the lowly Titans after trailing 28-3.

As for the Steelers, they own impressive wins over the Colts and Ravens, but we're also blown out by the Browns in addition to a home loss to the Buccaneers at home.

And finally, the Ravens are now 5-4 after a 3-1 start to this season. They own wins over the Steelers and Browns, but we're swept by the Bengals and were just demolished by Pittsburgh, 43-23.

What does it all mean?

Simply put, don't count out any AFC team with a winning record.