The AFC North race is getting tighter by the minute. This week, the Ravens beat the Browns as expected, the Chiefs beat the Panthers and even the Titans and Dolphins managed to upset the Packers and Chargers, respectively. Nothing seemed to be going in the Bengals’ favor. However, that all changed later on, as the Cowboys beat the Steelers, dropping Pittsburgh to 4-5 on the year in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Despite a 408-yard, three-touchdown outing from Ben Roethlisberger, including 154 yards and a touchdown catch from Antonio Brown, the Steelers fell to the Cowboys.
Ezekiel Elliott totaled 209 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, overshadowing an inspiring performance from Dez Bryant — six catches, 116 yards and a touchdown on the day his father passed away — exposing Pittsburgh’s weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball with ease. The Steelers, playing at home, were unable to take advantage of 10 Cowboys penalties (to Pittsburgh’s four). Pittsburgh won the turnover battle, but it still couldn’t manage to top Dallas — perhaps because the Steelers attempted (and failed) four two-point conversions. Le’Veon Bell’s struggles continued against the Cowboys. Though he remains a significant threat out of the backfield as a pass-catcher, Bell’s production as a ball-carrier (17 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown, good for just 3.35 yards per carry) hasn’t been nearly as productive as it was prior to his injury last year.
Pittsburgh’s loss came as great news to the Bengals, as if they manage to upset the Giants on Monday night, they’ll move ahead of the Steelers into second place in the tight AFC North race. It’s now been 35 days since any AFC North team has beaten an opponent from a different division, which is impressively terrible. The Bengals will be aiming to put an end to that streak when they face the Giants in MetLife Stadium. The last time Cincinnati traveled to New York, the Bengals beat the Jets in MetLife on September 11 in the first game of the season.
With “winnable” games against the Bills, Ravens, Eagles and Browns in the upcoming weeks, the Bengals are in control of their own destiny at this point of the season. With the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos looking dominant in the AFC West and a surprisingly strong season from the Titans thus far, it’s hard to argue the Bengals even have a remote chance at a Wild Card berth at this stage of the season. But these matchups, the Steelers’ cold streak and the Ravens’ obvious flaws (and difficult upcoming schedule) are encouraging for a Bengals team that really needs something to get excited about.