"The Bengals are the best team in football."
That's a statement that's being echoed more and more as the 2014 NFL has progressed.
It's a statement the Bengals players aren't buying into though. That's one of their best strengths: Blocking out the outside noise and paying attention to only their teammates, coaches and next opponent.
That's what Andrew Whitworth reiterated this week, referring to the 2011 season in which everyone predicted the Bengals to be among the NFL's worst, only for them to go 9-7 and clinch a playoff berth.
"We were supposed to be 0-16 three years ago,’ said Whitworth. "For good or bad, those people aren’t always right.
Domata Peko echoed those sentiments.
"There’s a sign in our defensive meeting room that says, ‘Ignore the noise,’ and that means anything negative or positive," said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "We have to keep working, keep grinding."
Oh, and as for the 3-0 start, which has only been accomplished seven times in franchise history, it means nothing. The same happened in 2006: The Bengals started 3-0, gained national praise and even predictions of a Super Bowl run.
"Even though that’s the best start we’ve had," Whitworth said, "we needed the same kind of finish and we ended the year with three chances to make the playoffs and didn’t get it. That’s why myself and Domata and Rob (Geathers) are here. Make sure guys don’t forget that."
"We were smelling ourselves too much," Peko said of a team that handled success so badly it failed.
This is exactly the mentality the Bengals have to use right now. Based on how they've played through three weeks, they are one of, if not the best team in football. Right now, their potential downfall is either an onslaught of injuries, or becoming complacent.
The NFL season is a marathon. The Bengals are leading the race after a few laps, but there's still many miles left to be run.