Something that didn’t look possible after the Cincinnati Bengals fell to a 3-5 start was a vision of the postseason.
However, after a stout defense won a war of attrition against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bengals find themselves locked into the No. 6 seed for the AFC playoff picture.
The win at Heinz Field means that the Bengals defeated one of the AFC North elites, the first time they have done so in Andy Dalton’s short tenure as Cincinnati’s quarterback. It also marked their sixth win in seven games.
Locked into their respective postseason seed, the Bengals could potentially face any of the AFC division winners in the wild card round. That is, their opponent could be either Houston, Denver, New England, or Baltimore. It depends on who exits Week 17 as the No. 3 seed.
That team will likely be the New England Patriots, who defeated the Bengals 38-24 in the most recent meeting between the two teams. That was the 2010 season opener.
Tom Brady and the New England offense have shown little reason to doubt the home team in this projected match-up. An established running game has helped the Patriots develop a more balanced playbook, and even the best defenses have had trouble stopping the Patriots’ rhythm when they have the ball.
Just ask the San Francisco 49ers about their near-epic collapse in Week 15.
So how can the Bengals win against such odds? At first glance, chances seem pretty slim. Then again, the second and third glimpses don’t reveal anything too promising either.