With Baltimore’s surprise loss to the Jaguars on Monday night, the Cincinnati Bengals now have the same number of losses as the division leaders. And the Bengals benefit from what should be a slightly easier schedule than the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Ravens.
But the Bengals are facing a critical – absolutely critical – stretch of their schedule in the coming weeks, in which the early season momentum could snowball into a legitimate playoff run or disintegrate before our eyes. Up first are two road games against the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans. Popular thinking would suggest that the Bengals need to at least split the next two games to remain in contention for a playoff spot.
Fortunately, both of those tasks got a little easier with a couple of injuries on Sunday. The Seahawks lost starting cornerback Walter Thurmond for the season after he broke his leg against the Browns. Seattle’s pass defense is pretty thin. And Titans starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck suffered what seems to be a minor hand injury in a loss to the Texans. Hasselbeck’s injury shouldn’t keep him out of any games, but he’s known for not being very durable and that trend could be continuing.
Following the two road games, Cincinnati returns home for a clash with the Steelers and then travels to Baltimore. It’s a stretch of four huge games that will determine the season for these blossoming Bengals.
Things could blow up. Or they could continue to bloom. Or perhaps they’ll be in a similar position to the one they possess now.
None of that has been decided yet. But one thing’s for sure.
The road ahead is a challenging one.