What the Bengals Must Do To Make Playoffs Again

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Dec 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback

Andy Dalton

(14) at the line of scrimmage against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

After the bye week, the Bengals must buckle down. They head to Pittsburgh for their second divisional game of the season to face the defending AFC North champions. Then, the string of prime time games start with hosting the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. Cincinnati then plays host to the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football the very next week. The goal will be to leave this stretch 2-1 and improve to 6-3 overall.

The Bengals head to Arizona on a short week to face the Cardinals in a possible reunion with former quarterback Carson Palmer. Then St. Louis Rams will come to Paul Brown Stadium with hopes of ending their road trip with a win. Although Jeff Fisher‘s defense is strong, their offense is still a question mark with Nick Foles at quarterback (maybe) and the Rams will be coming off a physical game against Baltimore. This should make for a 1-1 split or even a 2-0 run for the Bengals, ideally making them 7-4 on the season.

The Bengals get the Browns in Cleveland for Week 13, and the hope is to set up an 8-4 record before heading home to face the Steeelers for their second meeting as well. If the Bengals can get to 9-4 they will set themselves up for another solid finish and a good shot at the AFC North crown.

They Bengals will hope to split their next two evening games, as they head to San Francisco for Sunday Night Football against the 49ers and then to the Mile High City to face the Denver Broncos for Monday Night Football. If they can find a way to split these two and get to 10-5, they could be playing for a first round bye, possibly even already locking themselves into the playoffs and a AFC North title.

Cincinnati finishes up their schedule in Cincinnati against the Baltimore Ravens. The NFL hopes for this game to mean something, but depending on how the season plays out for both teams, it could just mean another week for both teams. The Bengals best case scenario is an 11-5 season and the AFC North crown. I don’t see them getting much better than that, but they could always prove me wrong, or do worse. The expectation should be no less than this for the season and a fifth straight playoff berth.

Next: Bengals Who Must Step Up in 2015

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