After that things get significantly tougher. Nine of the Bengals final ten games come against teams that finished .500 or better last season, and while some teams in that portion of the schedule look significantly worse than last year (hello, Raiders and Chiefs), Cincinnati still faces the rest of the always-difficult NFC East (New York and Dallas at home, Philly on the road), Pittsburgh twice, Denver with Peyton Manning, an undefeated San Diego on the road, and Baltimore again in Week 17 to close out the year.
Come now, Bengals fans. Be honest with yourselves. In the deepest, darkest corners of your minds, in the places you don’t talk about at parties…do you think Cincinnati can, say, split the final 10 games? Keeping in mind, with the exception of the games against Oakland and Kansas City, the Bengals likely won’t be favored in any of them and, as previously noted, the team has had little success in games it was “supposed to lose.”
Could the Bengals go 5-5 over those last ten games? Sure, anything is possible, given a bounce here or there. Will they? Not bloody likely. Which brings us full circle, at long last, to this week’s game with Washington. If Cincinnati were to lose to the Redskins, at the very least the Bengals would need to win five of those final ten tough games to finish the season at 9-7 and be in the postseason conversation. That record was good enough for the playoffs last year, but most years it isn’t; usually it takes 10 wins, and sometimes more. Oh, and one more thing. This scenario assumes wins over Jacksonville, Miami, and Cleveland the following three games after this week, which is a mighty big assumption.
I think the Bengals have a great shot to win on Sunday. But if they don’t, things could get ugly, and making the playoffs will become an extremely difficult task.