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Sep 30, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) gets a pat on the helmet from quarterback Andy Dalton (14) and guard Kevin Zeitler (68) after catching a pass for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Everbank Field. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

All of the optimism has dissolved in three weeks. Bengal fans have gone from dreaming of a division title to wondering which draft pick Cincinnati will end up with next spring.

The truth is, not much has changed. The Bengals are what they were before the three game losing streak, and what they were last year. A decent team. No more, no less. They’ll play a lot of close games. They’ll usually beat the bad teams, and lose to the good teams.

We all got over our skis a bit during the three game winning streak (I was as big an offender as anybody), and now it is really hard to avoid jumping off the cliff after the past three games. The Bengals, as currently constructed, are not a Super Bowl contender. They are a borderline playoff contender at best. And I think it’s fair to wonder if they can make the jump to the next level with their current roster.

The two most important on-field members of a football team are the head coach and the quarterback. Most of the other parts are interchangeable. Think about the teams that are perennial Super Bowl contenders. New England, Pittsburgh, the New York Giants, Green Bay, even Baltimore…all have top-level coaches and quarterbacks, and all are generally in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy every year, despite heavy changes throughout the rest of the roster.

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