It seems hyperbolic to say Andy Dalton and AJ Green saved this franchise. Bengal fans know different. Because of that, it can sometimes feel—awkward, I guess, to criticize Dalton after he pulled the team out of the morass that was the 2010 season.
But it’s time to take that next step. Last year, third place in the AFC North and sneaking into the playoffs through the backdoor. This year, a win Sunday will clinch a playoff berth, second place in the division, and still give Cincinnati an outside shot at the AFC North title.
This is the kind of progression contending teams, and top quarterbacks, need to make. If the Bengals and Dalton can’t beat the Steelers (or Ravens), it will be impossible to ever take them seriously as Super Bowl contenders.