Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.

Justice the founder of my fabric mov’d:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.

Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.

Such characters in colour dim I mark’d
Over a portal’s lofty arch inscrib’d:
Whereat I thus: Master, these words import.

The Divine Comedy

The Cincinnati Bengals’ 2008 season has now officially become a death march.

With the trade deadline passing last Tuesday, there is now no hope of trading players like T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who still have value but do not appear to fit into the Bengals plans beyond this year.

With the season-ending injury to Keith Rivers, the development of the team’s 2008 first round draft pick, already slowed by a training camp holdout last summer, is now set back an additional year.

With their seventh loss, any pleasant delusions that the team could battle back and snag a playoff berth are now gone.

The question surrounding Carson Palmer’s elbow injury — should he shut it down, or try to come back after the bye week? — is rendered moot. There’s no reason for Palmer to return.

The probability that this march will end at or near the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, forcing the Bengals to spend tens of millions of dollars on some college kid who has never taken an NFL snap — a deal that will financially hamstring the team if he busts — approaches 100%.

The chance that the team ends the season with interim head coach Bob Bratkowski, whose offense has been a joke, or interim head coach Paul Alexander, whose offensive line is an insult to the league, is also rising. And whatever one thinks of Marvin Lewis, either would be a step down.

And finally, from long experience, Bengals fans know that nothing fundamental will change. There will be no general manager. There will be no additional scouts. There will be no front office accountability. And even if Lewis is canned, his successor will still have to operate within the confines of the Bengals’ mom ‘n’ pop structure.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.