This question could be answered simply with “win football games,” and that’s true; the Bengals will have to turn this next stretch of games into wins, but what is the process in doing that? How can the Cincinnati Bengals put themselves in the best position possible as a team to make a playoff run in one of the tightest and most challenging divisions in football.
The Bengals have one of the toughest schedules coming up through the second half of the season, but that is no excuse because the Steelers, Ravens, and Browns have extremely tough schedules as well. Luckily, the Bengals are already 2-1 within the division, which gives them an upper hand in tiebreakers. But with division games still to play against all three teams, it only goes a long way if they can pull out wins again against these opponents.
This past week, the Bengals defeated the Las Vegas Raiders to improve to 6-4 in a very critical conference matchup. The Raiders, a lot like the Bengals, have been a very inconsistent team this year. Some weeks they look as if they can hang with and beat anybody in the NFL, and other weeks, they look like an average team who isn’t ready to compete yet. Both teams were on two-game skids, which means the motivation from each side was high. Down the course of the year, the Bengals winning this game could play a profound role in how the wild card and playoff race shake out if records remain as close as they are right now.
The Bengals stretch of games to end the season now include
– Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1)
– Los Angeles Chargers (6-4)
– San Francisco 49ers (5-5)
– at Denver Broncos (5-5)
– Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
– Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
– at Cleveland Browns (6-5)
Every team on the Bengals upcoming schedule currently has a .500 or better record and still presents a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.
The Bengals need to get back to some of what they were doing through the first seven weeks. Forget about Week 8 and Week 9. Instead, do the little things, play for one another, wrap up and tackle, make intelligent decisions, stay disciplined, and most importantly, stay level-headed. No win is more significant than the next one.
As a young football team, that will be the biggest key for the team to remember. A big win against a good team or a win against a lousy team results in the same outcome. It puts a W in the win column and helps the team get closer to reaching their goals. And as we’ve seen countless times this year, any team can be beaten on any given day or night regardless of record.
The Bengals have seen it first hand losing to the lowly Jets. The Titans, Bills, Ravens, and other teams have also experienced it. Cincinnati will need to show up each week and put on a stellar performance and find ways to win games even when adversity puts its back up against the wall. Good teams find ways to win. If the Bengals want to be considered a top team in the AFC, they will need to beat other top teams in the AFC.
Currently standing at 6-4 overall and 2nd in the AFC North, the Bengals will be in critical battles with the rest of the division and the rest of the conference through the final eight games. Bengals currently are only one game back to the Baltimore Ravens for 1st in the AFC North. The Ravens still have to play the Browns and the Steelers twice, leaving them with a critical division matchup this week and more in the future as well.
If the Bengals can find a way to get themselves into the postseason, it would be the first time since 2015. The Bengals have not won a playoff game since 1990. Over 30 years. This team has a chance to end that streak but first will have to play the best football of their season to have the opportunity.