A few weeks ago on the Who Dey Weekly Podcast, Nick, Mickey and I discussed whether or not the Pittsburgh game was one of the most important regular season games in Bengals team history. While Mickey and I didn’t think that it was, Nick made a strong argument about how that game was key to keeping momentum and proving that we can rebound from what once seemed the worst off-season ever. Fast forward two weeks and two tough division losses later and now every game seems like the most important ever. Currently we are a game up on several teams for the final wild card spot and still in the hunt for the division title, yet Pittsburgh and Baltimore are rolling while the wheels are starting to come off the Bengals bandwagon.
The Cleveland Browns visit PBS this weekend and the game is not a sellout, but it could very well determine if we are playoff contenders or also ran’s. Baltimore plays San Francisco this week at home while Pittsburgh plays in the Sea of Red over in Kansas City. Both teams play one more game with the Bengals, but we are not likely to be favored in either. Pittsburgh gets Cleveland twice plus the Rams, while Baltimore plays Cleveland twice plus the Colts. We will basically need to upset one or both of them to have a shot at the division crown. We can’t win the head to head tiebreaker with either team, and each team can have what amounts to a three game lead if they beat us the next time around due to the head to head tiebreaker. With two divisional losses already, we would need to sweep the division the rest of the way to have a shot at the divisional title.
Of the wild card contenders, the Jets are the scenario that I fear the most. The Jets won’t play us but have a pretty soft schedule the rest of the way. We have the same record so far with common opponents but they get Buffalo at home this weekend and that will swing the tie breaker in their favor unless we upset Baltimore the final game of the season. If we lose to only Baltimore and Pittsburgh, we could finish at 10-6 and still miss the playoffs if the Jets beat Buffalo, Washington, Kansas City, Miami, and one of either the Giants or Eagles. Suddenly hot Denver holds the tiebreaker with us and has winnable games left against the Chargers, Vikings, Bills, Bears (without Cutler) and Chiefs. What seemed like a dream season a few weeks is now like walking through a train tunnel, hoping that we can make it to the other side before the train arrives. Hopefully Cleveland will stay out of our way this Sunday.