The Cincinnati Bengals are undefeated heading into Sunday Night's game in New England and... it feels so damn good. Everything is going right for Cincinnati.
Offense. Uh huh.
Defense. Best in the league.
No one has, nor can, beat Cincinnati... who is claiming victory in convincing fashion without some of their starters, and weapons. Marvin Jones? Unlikely to play Sunday. Vontaze Burfict? Doubtful. Both could play, sure. But if Cincinnati's approach toward injuries could be simplified into a single word, conservative would be it. Starting guard Kevin Zeitler is out for another week or two. That's alright. Cincinnati has a starting guard in Mike Pollak playing backup.
That said, pray for those nervous fools with old man cosplay and predictable reservations. Those old questions surface at times like these. Can Cincinnati, and by extension quarterback Andy Dalton, wipe out dated perceptions by beating a conference powerhouse on primetime? Are the New England Patriots finally down and distracted enough to stay out? Do we have to rely on petty things like that?
These are the pregame storylines and every bit of it can be broken down into a much simpler scale... is it time for the Bengals to step up as one of the preeminent powerhouses in football?
One could always argue that they already are. After all, we're talking about a Bengals squad that's qualified for the postseason in three straight years and four of the past five seasons. Granted, they don't win big games... so to speak. They still haven't won a postseason game since '90. Prior to beating Pittsburgh last year on Monday Night, you have to go back to '07 when they last won a Monday Night game. But in the end, they win enough of them to qualify.
This information is not new. Nor is it raw... anymore.
Yet our primary storyline... the one that matters the most, is beating a conference powerhouse on primetime. It's an opportunity for Cincinnati to correct previous wrongs, reset people's perspectives and firing dated personalities. No. It's not the end-all for these discussions. Winning a postseason game forces a greater importance every year they're in the playoffs. Those are predictably stored until later.
While Cincinnati continues peddling an incline towards stardom, New England is approaching a final destination for one of the more impressive runs of our generation. At least that's what we're being led to believe. Conflict and distractions are emerging from New England's lockerroom, made all the more distracting after the Patriots disastrous showing on Monday Night Football.
Does the baton change hands on Sunday Night? Will old story lines transition into new ones? Or does familiarity remind us that the same ol' problems exist?
It's a test we look forward to seeing.