I've always been someone that relies more on my observations -- not applying the so-called faith of what could be. It's why predictions and pregame prognostication bothers me; usually there's nothing substantive in those predictions, except for history and recent trends -- two things that makes sense to me. Oh, the Bengals will win 27-24. How? What basis is this prediction made? To generate a topic for debate? Fine. Whatever. It's all meaningless.
OK, I'm pessimistic right now. It was a soul-crushing defeat Sunday Night for me. Not because the Bengals lost to a division rival -- five of the league's eight division leaders (Patriots, Bengals, Broncos, Saints, Eagles) lost this weekend and the Detroit Lions are hoping to avoid becoming the sixth on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens. Losses happen. It was the way that Cincinnati lost -- the poor performance on special teams, the alarming rise in missed tackles, the time it takes for the offense to get rolling -- that complicated a once-comfortable postseason picture.
While someone like me kicks the empty can down the dirt road, feeling all sorry for himself as a full-blown and obsessive supporter, the Bengals aren't.
"We let one get away," said Michael Johnson via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "What we going to do about it? Going to cry? We are going to come to work and get better. We are going to come to work and get better."
Johnson adds that the Bengals will finish out with a two-game winning streak to secure 11 wins.
"Now we are going to come back and win two in a row at home and go into the playoffs and wreak havoc," said Johnson. "We are going to be all right. Nobody should have their head down."
Andy Dalton keeps the familiar calm composure that identifies him, especially as a quarterback that's able to overcome his own mistakes by mentally removing those memories during several comebacks earlier this season. He's like a closer in baseball a day after blowing a save.
"There is no panic," said Dalton. "There’s not extra little bit where we are trying to get frantic. We still have two games at home. If we take care of our business a lot of good things can happen."
"We’re not going to allow people to start talking like we’re 5-9," said Andrew Whitworth via Joe Reedy. "We’re 9-5 and got an opportunity to still do what we want."
It's true. The Bengals still control their own destiny. Win-out and they're in as AFC North champions and a No. 3 seed (at the very least, needing the Patriots to lose another to slide into the second seed). However, there is not room for error as the Baltimore Ravens also control their own destiny. Win or lose against the Vikings, if the Ravens beat the Lions on Monday and the Patriots next week, the Bengals and Ravens will play for the AFC North in week 17.
On the other hand, it might be the scenario most desired. If the Ravens beat the Patriots, it gives Cincinnati another opportunity for the second seed but familiar concerns are raised on whether the Bengals can win the big one. They showed an ability last year by defeating the Steelers in week 16. However, they've lost every postseason game they've played during this incarnation and when they had a huge opportunity to make a statement by sliding into the second seed and prevent the Ravens from controlling their own destiny, they failed.
"We had some really bad breaks and you just move forward and try to get on a streak and get back to playing the way you want and treat those for exactly what they were kind of something that for this season I would say is fluke to happen to this football team," said Whitworth. "Everyone knows that. It’s bad breaks. Now we just need to get on another roll, get ourselves in the playoffs."
While it's awesome that the Bengals are still fighting to make the postseason in three consecutive years and in four of the past five seasons, getting in just isn't enough anymore. They have to win. And thus my concerns remain.