Yea, I'm a little nervous.
Afterall, I'm a Bengals fan. Isn't that the localized insult today? No, I'm a fanatic of an NFL team, no different than any other fan supporting any other team, despite the self-righteous connotations that many exclusively attach to Bengals fans.
Yes, I'm nervous.
I have zero problem admitting it.
This has nothing to do with loyalty, the measurement of one's
manhood "true fandom", or an arcane belief that our "faith" has any impact on Cincinnati's on-field performance. I've never imposed my beliefs/perspective onto others; you're allowed your own opinion, provided it's not incendiary (for the sake of trolling) nor hateful, and no one can take that away. There won't be guilt trips, public shaming, and I won't tell you how to behave, as a fan.
That being said, my simplified observation of this team currently ranges from perfection to awful, apparently in that order this year. Face it, there's a little uncertainty with you as well, however resisting of such declarations is fine.
Regardless, you have to admit that this team is struggling. Cincinnati's pass protection has forced Andy Dalton into a constant game of evasion, which doesn't help with confident throws from a penetrating pocket. There are times where the play-calling gets cute, taking a well-orchestrated drive and then calling a reverse (just to keep the defense on their toes), losing a handful of yards and crushing the drive's momentum. Whether it's a previously injured knee or the saturating concentration of focusing on ball security, Jeremy Hill has become a productive goalline weapon, but not much else.
The penalties are up. Stupid penalties. Personal fouls, late hits, illegal alignments/formations, mimicking one's cadence (*cough* bullshit *cough*), false starts, all of these are mental breakdowns. You'll have penalties throughout the course of an NFL game; it's the mental mistakes that drives coaches (and fans) crazy.
Defensively, things appear peachy, for a spell at least. Whereas the defense kept Cincinnati relevant against a toothless Houston offense, Arizona's Carson Palmer shredded the defense in the third quarter and during the final drive of the game, which led to a game-winning field goal and Cincinnati's first regular season losing streak since 2013 (Weeks 9-10).
Yes, the Bengals are 8-2 -- and yes, you could drive home the point that you'd totally take 8-2 when reviewing the season in August. Here's the thing about reality. Expectations change based on current events (not a season-long analysis on what you thought you'd expect in August). They evolve because updated information shapes opinions and expectations, accounting for current scenarios. Yes, Cincinnati is 8-2. Yet, the team hasn't won since Nov. 5 and will have gone 24 days since their last win by the next time they play this Sunday.
We could argue that this isn't the same squad as past years. We have. Many times. And they have. Yet, there are many who expect an eventual collapse. That has nothing to do with belief, fandom, or even current events. It has everything to with history, which tends to mold disposition. It's probably worth noting that remarking about expectations today, from a baseline dating back to August is as irrelevant as those looking at expectations in January. What's the point anyway? It's to argue with others -- using subjecting talking points that can't be proven one way or another.
Regardless, our sunny disposition has evolved to cautious optimism, with nervousness on the side. How will Cincinnati respond to a losing streak? Will they recover against a mediocre team in St. Louis with flashes of invincibility? Will the gameplan continue its (sometimes unnecessary) flair toward gamesmanship, and how will the defense react to an infirmed secondary? It's also worth pointing out that opposing teams, most of whom have placed a target on Cincinnati's back, are giving their best effort and they're starting to succeed. How the Bengals counter this is of significant interest.
Am I nervous? Sure. Our goggles aren't filled with apple pie, ice cream, and Baywatch posters.
Afterall, we're NFL fans.