The Cincinnati Bengals' playoff cold streak has almost become a curse at this point. Cincinnati has lost six consecutive playoff games, meaning that their last win was in 1991. To put into perspective how long ago that was, at that time the Tennessee Titans were the Houston Oilers, and there was NFL football in Los Angeles. If Cincinnati loses this week, they will tie the record for the most consecutive playoff losses, which is currently held by the Kansas City Chiefs. Of course, that all depends on how Kansas City fares since their record losing streak is still active. That 1991 win was the Bengals' fifth franchise playoff win, and the six losses since then have brought their postseason record to a dreadful 5-13, including an 0-2 record in the Super Bowl.
As this season developed, the Bengals became legitimate Super Bowl hopefuls, looking to break the dry spell and obtain their first Lombardi Trophy. Of course, going 8-0 to start the season will usually bring high expectations. Since that hot start, Cincinnati has had a rollercoaster ride of a season. They dropped consecutive primetime games, but came right back in the following weeks to re-assert themselves as a top contender in the AFC. The injury to Andy Dalton, as well as injuries to Adam Jones and Tyler Eifert, brought adversity and hardship to a team that up to that point was having incredibly good fortune in the health aspect of the game. Still, the Bengals were able to recover and win the division (thanks in part to one Cincinnati rival unexpectedly sweeping another). Now, Cincinnati's first obstacle to achieving their first Super Bowl win is of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bengals have only had one playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in franchise history, which was an infamous loss after Carson Palmer went down with an injury, thus ending Cincinnati's hopes for a win. Saturday, they will look to break the streak and get some revenge in one of today's most heated NFL rivalries. While Cincinnati winning would be a great storyline, it is important to throw storylines and narratives out of the window for a second. Forget that Cincinnati has already been written off by the rest of the league, and some of the team's own fans, because of the losing streak. Do not just focus on who the "hot" team is. Do not act like Cincinnati is destined to lose playoff games regardless of the facts, because this is one game they certainly can win.
Without Andy Dalton, Cincinnati will once again need the running game to be effective to get a win. Cincinnati already has more total rushing yards than Pittsburgh this season (1,805 to 1,724). Add on the fact that DeAngelo WIlliams still has not practiced as of Thursday, and Cincinnati likely gets a huge advantage in the run game on Saturday. That's not the only advantage that the Bengals will have, though. While Pittsburgh has a deadly passing attack, headlined by the Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown connection, Cincinnati has their own great weapons for AJ McCarron to utilize, including Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green. The importance will be which team can defend the great weapons they're up against better, and Cincinnati has the better defense in this battle. The Bengals have the 11th-best defense in yards allowed this season, giving up 5,453 yards. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, ranks 21st, with 5,809 yards allowed. Cincinnati's defense has also been phenomenal at shutting teams down, and bending but not breaking. The Bengals rank second in points allowed this season, giving up just 279 total points. This defense is going to have to clamp down on Antonio Brown and keep him out of the end zone, and they are certainly capable of doing so.
Cincinnati can no doubt pull out a win this weekend, regardless of how bad their history in the playoffs has been. Now getting back to storylines and narratives, a win for Cincinnati would be a remarkable victory. As far as franchise history goes, this game is a David vs Goliath battle. While the Cincinnati Bengals' playoff history was mentioned before, Pittsburgh's looks a lot different. The Steelers have 33 playoff wins, and six Super Bowl titles. The Bengals winning this game would be a huge confidence boost going forward into the playoffs. Getting over the hump and getting one playoff win against their bad blood rivals could be enough momentum to push them to a Super Bowl run. Not only that, but it would finally break the Bengals from playoff futility, while giving Cincinnati fans some monumental bragging rights over Pittsburgh. There is nothing like beating a rival in the postseason.
One thing is for sure. The Bengals cannot just be written off. They have a great chance of grabbing their first playoff win since the 1990 season, which would snap the ugly losing streak that hangs over the city of Cincinnati.