Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the Cincinnati Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in years. In fact, the last time the Bengals won in the postseason, Sega Genesis was the most popular gaming system in America. But things could be changing in the Queen City. The Bengals franchise has had more than a few changes and acquired top-notch personnel. There’s no reason the Bengals shouldn’t be able to win the Super Bowl.
Since Week 1, the Bengals have been playing stellar defense. The 33-13 thrashing of the Oakland Raiders was the beginning of a special year for the unit. The defense adopted a bend-but-don’t-break mantra over the first seven games of the season. But the return of Vontaze Burfict turned a good unit into a beast. The Bengals held the Pittsburgh Steelers to 10 points, in a Week 8 win, and never looked back.
In five of the next six games, the Bengals held their opponent to 14 points or less. Twice, they flirted with shutouts. The Bengals’ defense ended the regular season ranked No. 11 in total yards, according to NFL Network. But they rank No. 2 in the most important stat a defense needs to put up. The Bengals gave up only 279 points. That puts them behind the Seattle Seahawks with 277.
Cincinnati can hold up against any team, with their core of talented cornerbacks. Adam Jones was snubbed for the Pro Bowl and Reggie Nelson finished as the NFL’s co-leader in interceptions. Dre Kirkpatrick is a speedster with skills and Leon Hall is a savvy, experienced hard-hitter. No team in Bengals history has done better over a 16 game season.
“It just speaks to the guys in the locker room,” Adam Jones explained. “The guys upstairs, bringing everybody in here. It’s great for the city of Cincinnati.”
But even Jones knows the first step has to be made against the Steelers.
“But this time we need a playoff win. It is what it is. We need a playoff win.”
The supporting cast
Andy Dalton went down with a thumb injury, in Week 14. But the Bengals have done well with AJ McCarron under center. The second-year quarterback doesn’t have to win it all alone. The Bengals have surrounded him with tons of weapons. The leader of the supporting cast is A.J. Green. The speedster has racked up four straight 1,000-yard seasons. His partners in crime, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are just as dangerous.
Tyler Eifert is the insurance plan for the Bengals offense. He’s an important part of the blocking schemes, but also a dangerous deep threat. He’s proved to be a scoring machine, with 13 touchdowns. Eifert could easily line up as a third or fourth receiver for the Bengals. His presence is a matchup nightmare for any linebacker.
It’s easy to lose Bengals’ running back Giovani Bernard in the crowd. But his numbers will make defensive coordinators quickly find him. Bernard is a change-of-pace back that can kill the defense with his blazing speed. Bernard has piled up 1,202 total yards, including a career-high 730 rushing yards, and two touchdowns. If that was dangerous in the regular season, his usage in the playoffs and beyond will cause chaos.
Time to let the pressure go
It’s been 27 years since the Bengals have been to the Super Bowl. They are one of the best teams in franchise history. This is the year that a deep run into the playoffs can be made. Former players and coaches have given the Bengals their blessings. They’re all in agreement. If the Bengals can get past the mental block of not winning in the playoffs, there’s no stopping them. There’s no reason the Bengals shouldn’t be hoisting the Lombardi in Super Bowl 50.
[Feature Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images]