The NFL season ended in chaos for the Cincinnati Bengals. What seemed like a fairytale ending quickly turned into a nightmare. Another wild card loss to the Steelers put an end to the hopes and dreams of Bengals fans. It’s been a long 28 years since the Orange and Black made it to the Super Bowl. But some analysts are saying the Bengals could win Super Bowl 51.
In 1981, the Bengals were a longshot to play in Super Bowl 16. They had just endured a 6-10 campaign and were still embracing change. Forrest Gregg was the drill sergeant who demanded perfection. The uniforms changed to the bold design they wear today. The turnaround was complete. The Bengals went 12-4, en route to a date with the 49ers in Detroit.
Seven years later, Bengals fans were rewarded with another trip to the Promised Land. Sam Wyche branded the no-huddle offense onto the nation’s mind, and the Niners and Bengals were at it again. Was the Bengals brass molding a small dynasty? Then, a span of 14 years left the Bengals in shambles. They didn’t make the playoffs again until 2005.
Since 2011, the Bengals have been a yearly fixture in the playoff picture. The one thing that eludes a proud Bengals organization is another Super Bowl trip. It seems like that may be happening sooner than fans think. According to a recent ESPN report, the Bengals will be playing the Arizona Cardinals for the championship in 2017.
The writer even predicts the Bengals beating the Cardinals. The nation may not be ready for the Men in Stripes to dominate the league. There’s still plenty of anti-Burfict sentiment floating around. Bengals fans may want to take the Four Letter guys seriously. The analysts at ESPN are starting to look at the Bengals in a different light.
During the week before Super Bowl 50, Bill Polian said the Bengals were the best team in the NFL from top to bottom. He stated that the setback of the Wild Card chaos won’t stop them. They’ll be back next year. Per the Cincinnati Bengals site, he was open and surprisingly candid about the organization.
“It’s sad they didn’t get beyond where they did. They had the best team, I think. When Dalton got hurt, that was a terrible blow.”
Polian also praised the front office. He went on to talk about Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin.
“Duke has done a great job scouting. Marvin and the coaches have a done a great job identifying what they want and what they need,” Polian explained. “They’ve got depth at every position. They do a terrific job.”
When the Four Letter Network takes notice, it’s time to start paying attention.
Although there are still football fans who just love to hate the Bengals, the majority bought into the season. The Bengals were on the edge of doing something special before “the meltdown” took their fairytale ending away.
If not for the heroics of AJ McCarron and A.J. Green near the end of the game, Bengals fans were looking at another lackluster loss. The Bengals defense was giving a stellar effort. The offense was ignited after Giovani Bernard took a nasty hit from Ryan Shazier. The loss of Andy Dalton played a huge role in the outcome also. His thumb is healing and the high-octane scoring machine will be ready.
Dalton had a powerhouse year and changed how the media viewed him. His leadership also sparked a team hungry for more. That enthusiasm and the weapons possessed by the Bengals have finally begun to take hold on those willing to pay attention.
Will the Cincinnati Bengals end up in Super Bowl LI? Vegas currently has them as 14-1 favorites.
[Photo by Jeff Haynes/AP]