Assuming the Bengals can beat the Browns next week, that gives them a 4-2 record. That’s where things get tough. The Steelers some to town on Sunday night after that, and Pittsburgh is fighting off a tough start, and therefore will be ready to go. That will be tough. The Bengals get a bye week after that to prepare for the Manning brothers in back to back weeks. Peyton and the Broncos come first, with the defending Super Bowl champion Giants visiting the following week. The Kansas City Chiefs are up next, and though they’re down now, it will be a tough road game. Former Bengal Carson Palmer will be eager to beat his old team to close out November, then yet another AFC West team, the San Diego Chargers, is after that. The Bengals get the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles back to back, then close out the season with divisional rivals, the Steelers and Ravens.
If you consider the Raiders and Chiefs as games that should be wins, that, combined with the Cleveland game, totals six wins. At the very least nine wins will likely be needed to make the playoffs again, so the Bengals are going to have to get some tough wins against good teams, something they have struggled with historically. They realistically need to help themselves by splitting with Pittsburgh, especially their first matchup, as the Steelers are still trying to get healthy.
One thing is for sure: The Bengals are going to face some very good quarterbacks, and will need to step up defensively and force them into mistakes. In the early season, both Tony Romo of the Cowboys and Michael Vick of the Eagles have been turnover prone. The Cincinnati defense hasn’t produced many turnovers, though, and will need to reverse that trend. The Bengals can certainly return to the postseason if they play up to their potential. However, examining the schedule, it’s going to be a tough road. Like 2011, the second half of the season may test fans’ patience and their nerves. But, if like 2011, the Bengals wind up in the playoffs, all will be forgiven.