At 3-6, the Cincinnati Bengals face an uphill climb if they want to reach the postseason. OK, maybe not so much an uphill climb as scaling Mount Suribachi while wearing flip flops. The combination of early-season losses and certain units not developing means they have little wiggle room. Very little. “Before”-Mike-Golic-trying-to-fit-into-the-“after”-Mike-Golic-pants-on-those-old-Nutri-System-commercials wiggle room.
The way we see it, there are five things that must happen for Cincy to reach the postseason. Let’s tick ’em off, one by one.
5 Musts for the Cincinnati Bengals to Reach the Playoffs
1. They must start winning. We know, we know … we’re geniuses. But going on a winning streak now will restore the team’s confidence as well as put them back on a level playing field with divisional rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, both of whom have beaten the Bengals in 2017.
2. The O-line must gel. Right now, they are more like gelatin. Cincinnati ranks dead last in rushing yards with 631. That kind of one-dimensional offense puts a lot of pressure on the passing game, with predicable results. The offensive line has been pushed around this year and it’s time to turn the tables.
3. John Ross must step up. You heard us talk throughout the off-season that John Ross’ speed would be essential to taking the top off of an opposing defense. Through nine games, he has been targeted twice … that’s not a misprint. We know he’s been injured and we know he’s a rookie. But if those kinds of numbers hold up, the only speed you’ll notice on him is how quickly he’s run out of town.
4. Many other teams must have a slip up. Of the 16 AFC teams, 11 are ahead of Cincinnati in terms of a playoff spot. The Bengals have already lost to five of them. It’s too big a task to break down what needs to happen for Cincinnati to make the postseason, so we’ll just say this – the team doesn’t control its own destiny.
5. Cincinnati Bengals must be more dependable in close games. Cincy is 2-5 in one-possession games this year. The kicking game has been more reliable than the Nugent nightmare of 2016. But what’s the point of gaining three if other factors (the o-line, lack of playmakers) are going to cost you six on the final drive? The Bengals need to learn how to get a late lead and keep it.