The Cincinnati Bengals were far from in a must-win scenario as they entered Nissan Stadium Sunday, but a win had the potential to put them at 7-4 and tied for the top spot in the AFC North.
Win they did as the Bengals took a tie into both halftime and the third quarter and used a fourth-quarter touchdown to pull ahead of the Titans.
Cincinnati was led by quarterback Joe Burrow, who was 22-for-37 as a passer and also ran for 32 yards. He had a touchdown and no interceptions, ending with 270 passing yards.
With Joe Mixon out, starting running back Samaje Perine finished the game with 58 rushing yards and a touchdown as well.
That said, the 20-16 win pushed the Bengals to 7-4 on the season. Here’s how the national media’s power rankings have reflected their recent success.
ESPN — No. 8 - Up from No. 11
While it might seem like a stretch for a team currently seeded sixth in the AFC standings, the defending conference champions are really finding their form as they enter December. The defense remains a solid unit, and the offense is one of the best in the league. Cincinnati ranks fourth in the NFL in points per drive and offensive points per game — despite the fact that WR Ja’Marr Chase has missed the past four games with a hip injury. The team also owns the AFC’s best net touchdown differential (plus-13). — Ben Baby
The Ringer — No. 8 - Up from No. 12
When defensive tackles D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill are both healthy, the Bengals run defense is as good as it gets. Both were standout performers in the team’s 20-16 win over the Titans on Sunday, as Derrick Henry averaged just 2.2 yards per carry on 17 attempts. Cincinnati is getting hot on both sides of the ball, even with Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon missing games, which bodes well for the team as they set their sights on another deep postseason run.
ProFootballTalk — No. 8 - Up from No. 14
They’ve managed to stay under radar despite going to the Super Bowl. That likely won’t last much longer.
Yahoo! Sports — No. 9 - Up from No. 10
A strong win at Tennessee and the Ravens’ loss to the Jaguars was a great combination for Cincinnati. They’ll be getting Ja’Marr Chase back soon too. The Bengals will probably have to beat Baltimore on Jan. 8 to win the division, but they’re coming on strong.
NFL.com — No. 8 - Up from No. 10
The Bengals went to Nashville and took out the Titans without the assistance of Joe Mixon (concussion) or Ja’Marr Chase (hip). It’s the surest sign yet the defending AFC champions have found their way as the most difficult portion of the schedule arrives. “This is the kind of game that great teams win,” said Joe Burrow, who threw for 270 yards and the go-ahead score to Tee Higgins early in the fourth quarter. Burrow, sacked nine times by a fearsome Tennessee pass rush in Cincinnati’s Divisional Round win in January, was sacked just once on Sunday. And now the best news for Burrow: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that Chase is on target to return for Week 13’s showdown with the Chiefs.
Sporting News — No. 8 - Up from No. 11
The Bengals looked more like the Super Bowl contenders from last season by winning in Tennessee against a playoff-tough Titans team. They won with defense and timely running even without Joe Mixon. They’ll need more from Joe Burrow, too, vs. Mahomes.
Sports Illustrated — No. 8
Now winners of three straight, the Bengals are 7–4, dueling with the Titans and Chiefs in back-to-back weeks. Boy, it feels familiar, no? In all seriousness, they are playing some fantastic complementary defense right now. No one can question their place as a top-five offense, and soon, no one will question their status as a top-five defense.