The Cincinnati Bengals have been running quietly in recent weeks, winning five of their last eight games to return to the image of the playoffs. They have the opportunity to make a great statement when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (live broadcast on WatchESPN).
After a horrendous 0-3 start in the season, it was easy to dismiss the Bengals' postseason opportunities at that time. But thanks to a combination of factors, including a mediocre AFC, they are 5-6 and entered the 13th week to only one game in the wild card clbadification. Now they are in a position to follow a small run in December and perhaps surprise people, starting with a game against their hated rivals in the AFC North.
Of course, Cincy's record is more than a bit misleading. The Bengals have only 1-4 against teams with a winning record, which only beat a defective Buffalo Bills team. The last time they played against the Steelers, in Week 7, Pittsburgh eliminated them in a 29-14 victory.
The calendar is not easier from here, with games against the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens (who crushed them, 20-0, in the first game of the season). Still, the Bengals can not be completely counted on so many mediocre teams that walk around the wild card.
The Steelers are much more comfortable in their playoff position. They are on a streak of six consecutive wins and are 9-2, with a lead advantage in the AFC North. The offensive, when firing at full speed with its three main stars (Ben Roethlisberger, Le & # 39; Veon Bell, Antonio Brown), is still one of the most lethal attacks in the league. Brown in particular has been red hot, with five touchdowns in his last two games. He entered in Week 13 at the head of the NFL in both receptions (80) and receiving yards (1,195), which represents a good case for the Offensive Player of the Year.
The Pittsburgh defense has also been a strong unit for most of the year, but it hit the Green Bay Packers a bit last week, giving up three touchdowns to Brett Hundley when the Steelers had to win 31-28. Still, this team is loaded with star power on both sides of the ball, and could be a legitimate contender to the Super Bowl if all the pieces come together.
Tomlin's entire private and fiery conversation the season before the AFC championship game was the only stage for Patriots 36, Steelers 17. New England wins 10-0 in the first quarter. New England ahead 17-9 at halftime. New England with a 16-0 in the third quarter. New England in the Super Bowl and the championship.
The Steelers were ambushed in that game. Manhandled.
Tomlin is not over. Right, then. He has a problem with the Patriots.
And until the Steelers really show they can handle the Patriots, their talk is just talk. His staging simply bluffs.
The conclusion is that the Bengals control their own destiny. Of the remaining five games, two are against the division's enemies in Pittsburgh, which comes to Cincinnati next Monday night, and Baltimore, which is once again scheduled as the final game of the season.
In between, the Bengals have a couple of hard-earned games at home against Chicago and Detroit. They go to Minnesota in week 15 for another game against a disciple of Marvin Lewis. Lewis and the Bengals are undefeated against former coaches, and if that trend continues, the postseason may still be within reach after all.
The desire and the change requested with Ross is not even for him to start, the desire is for him to play. Put it in the field. That is all we are asking. For the past two weeks, Ross has been a healthy scratch after not being a factor for several reasons in the first half of the season. The Bengals recruited Ross with a selection of the top 10. Those are the selections that are normally reserved for blue chip players. The Bengals need to put Ross on the field and use him to his advantage, as it is a mismatch against every NFL cornerback. Also, with potential potential in Brandon LaFell's contract after this season, the Bengals need to figure out if Ross has what it takes to move up to the role of wide receiver 2.
If everyone stays healthy, they can take them to a nice high heights, but all the way to a Super Bowl title? They will still need others to start contributing.
On the offensive it has to be someone like Martavis Bryant who provides another weapon for the opposing defense to be held accountable, and in defense someone like Bud Dupree will have to revive and be a presence to destroy the game … something still he has not done so in 2017.
The Steelers have also entered the postseason as the No. 2 seed of the AFC five times in the era of the three rounds: 1979, 1995, 1997, 2008 and 2010.
The Steelers not only survived the divisional round five times, they managed to advance to the Super Bowl four times, with only John Elway and his Broncos preventing a perfect record, when they left the Three Rivers Stadium with the AFC crown after the campaign from 97.