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It's not primetime, but it's still a big-time game for Bengals

The Bengals can basically lock up the Division on Sunday with a Win. They don't have to go on the road, they don't have to do it under the lights; they just have to win.

To say Sunday's match up vs. Pittsburgh is important is an understatement; it's the biggest game thus far this season. Why is this game the biggest game of the the season?  Well, here's why... It's the first meeting between the Steelers and the Bengals and the Bengals need to get the first head to head win. The Steelers are 1.5 games behind the Bengals for the AFC North division lead and losing puts them right back in the race. The Steelers were red hot a few weeks back and everyone thought they were about to run away with the division. While the Bengals got embarrassed on Thursday night vs the Browns, since then, the Bengals gutted out three straight road games and the Steelers lost twice when they were favorites. Now, the Bengals are sitting in the drivers seat with complete control of their playoff future.

Winning is important, but taking wins from your Rivals is even more important:
It's important to win games in the NFL, but equally as important are the teams in your division losing games. The easiest way to make that happen is to do it yourself. Here's what the division looks like as of now.

If the Bengals can win they put the Steelers in a terrible position to make the playoffs. At 7-6 the Steelers will probably have to win out to get the Wild Card spot. They will be playing at Atlanta, vs the Chiefs, and then another game against the Bengals, during the last three weeks. With how bad the Steelers have looked on the road, and with two good teams playing them after that, I can't see that happening. Whats better than putting yourself in good playoff position? Sticking it to the Steelers two times in three years!

The Wild Card Race is Jam Packed:
There are currently six teams all tied for the second wild card position. There is no way the Bengals can afford to drop back closer to that group. With road games at Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and a Primetime game vs Denver waiting for the Bengals, they are going to need all the space they can get. I don't want a scenario where Andy and the gang have to go out and beat the Broncos on Monday night, under the lights, to keep their playoff hopes alive. Andy's going to have enough pressure on him for that game already, no need to add to that monkey.

The other two AFC North teams are likely to lose:

The Dolphins are the real deal this year, Tannehill has taken a major step forward and their front four can really get after the QB. The Ravens just lost Ngata for the rest of the regular season due to a PED suspension, as Jason wrote about earlier this week. They just found out on Thursday, so they will have to adjust their gameplan in the middle of the week. Lamar Miller has been good this season and when you lose your run stuffing NT in a 3-4 defense it hurts immensely. Going to hot Miami with a shortened defensive line rotation will be a tough task, I think they lose this game.

The Browns are playing the Colts this week, do I really need to go into detail on why they might lose this week? I am not saying it's a guaranteed loss this is the NFL, but there is a good chance they lose. So if the Bengals can win this Sunday all three other teams could get a loss for two straight weeks, giving them a 2.5 game lead.

As the Bengals get healthy they need to capitalize on Pittsburgh's misfortunes:
Just as the Ravens lost a key defensive lineman, so did the Steelers. Brett Keisel was just put on IR with a torn muscle, so this defensive front will be lacking veteran leadership. James Harrison actually strung together a few good games and he is likely out as well. Troy Polamalu is dinged up and Ike Taylor has looked bad coming back from his arm injury. The Steelers secondary is old, much like ours, but their secondary is really showing it of late. The receivers need to attack this group and force them to make plays. Hue must get Gio in space and both Gio and Hill need to get 15+ touches. The Bengals must wear down this aging and shorthanded defense and control the clock.

On the other side of the ball Marcus Gilbert has not been practicing either, if he can't go that means Mike Adams will will be starting at tackle. The former second round pick has been a been a human turn-style most of the time during his pro career. The Bengals need to move Dunlap and Gilberry around to confuse him and give them both better opportunities to pressure Big Ben.

Finish the season with momentum, so that they go into the playoffs with confidence:
If the Bengals can win this game they only will need to win one of their last three games to lock up the division crown. The Ravens would have to go 4-0 to pass the Bengals since the Bengals swept them and I don't think they will do that. As I mentioned, they need to go into the playoffs with momentum, but they only have to go 1-2 in the final three games. This takes the pressure off Andy, so we can see more GOOD Andy instead of BAD Andy. They will then go into Cleveland with revenge and the Division title in their sites, it will motive them to play their best.

Then the games will all line up with no real pressure, but with good motivation each time. Assuming they win the first two, they will have the Broncos at home to play for the first round bye. If they win that, they have motivation to beat Pittsburgh to keep the bye and go 5-1 in the division. They CAN go into the playoffs on a seven game winning streak, with a week to get healthier and ready themselves for a showdown in the Jungle to get their first playoff win in more than two decades.....Do you BELIEVE????

This game may only count as one win in the standings, but it means much, much more than that. They can secure a great spot in the division, knock out a division foe, and set the tone for the final quarter of the season. If you want the bully to stop beating you up and taking your lunch money, you have to go punch him in the mouth and take it back! I fully expect the Bengals to run the ball right at the Steelers and do just that on Sunday.