The Cincinnati Bengals can win the division with a win against the Kansas City Chiefs next week.
They can win the division with a win in either of the next two games, but it would be best for it not to come down to the last game.
It’s easier said than done, as the Chiefs are the only team in the AFC to punch their ticket to the postseason.
Nevertheless, the Bengals are red-hot, and while the Chiefs have improved since the beginning of the season, they don’t feel like the same team that won Super Bowl LIV.
If Travis Kelce comes off the COVID-19 list, then the Bengals might need another 41-point effort to win.
In any scenario, here’s what we learned about the Bengals from their win against the Ravens this week:
Keep letting Joe cook
Burrow threw for 525 yards this Sunday, the fourth-most of all time. While his competition was not what the Ravens usually display, but plenty of quarterbacks have thrown for fewer yards against worse defenses.
The Chiefs are going to score a lot of points next week. That’s not a knock on the Bengals’ defense, that’s just how good the Chiefs’ offense is. They have scored no less than 34 points in their last three games, and holding them under 30 is a tall task.
The Bengals would be behooved to score 41 points again. Burrow will have a huge part in scoring against a Chiefs defense that is in the bottom quarter in the league in passing defense.
Burrow dropped back 50 times against the Ravens in Week 16, which is part of reason he was able to gain so many passing yards. The Bengals are going to have to put it in his hands again so he can keep up with Patrick Mahomes.
D.J. Reader was an important part of this defense
With the play of Trey Hendrickson, Larry Ogunjobi, and even B.J. Hill, D.J. Reader has gone under the radar this year.
His numbers don’t pop off the page. He only has two sacks, three tackles for a loss, and seven QB hits. He is nowhere near the top of any of those lists.
Reader spent the Ravens game on the COVID-19 list, and the Bengals defensive line look limp without him. Josh Tupou didn’t even make it into the box score in Reader’s place. It was another case of Trey Hendrickson supplying most of the pressure, and Josh Johnson being able to get away from it.
Reader help plug up the middle and eat up blocks on the interior. Even though he didn’t have a lot of flashy plays this season, he still helped his teammates get stop the run and get to the quarterback.
Sometimes, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. In this case, Reader showed us what we miss without him.
Take care of the football
Saying “Let Joe cook” and “Take care of the football” might be mixed messages, since part of letting Joe cook involves putting the ball in harm’s way in hopes of the explosive pass.
Burrow needs to find a balance between taking risks and taking advantage of opportunities.
Obviously, when the Bengals win the turnover battle, their record is better than when they lose it. The Bengals didn’t turn the ball over in their last two wins, but had negative turnover margins in the two losses before that.
Burrow went 50 drop backs without turning the ball over in Week 16. The Bengals need him to continue to take care of the ball, and not to give Mahomes extra possessions to work with.