Bengals: 5 Must-Win Games After the Bye

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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

1. Week 8: at Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday 11/1 at 1:00PM EST

Cincinnati’s first test of the second half of the 2015 season comes this Sunday in a divisional rivalry matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bengals players, coaches and fans alike already know that this game is huge; Cincinnati went 0-2 against Pittsburgh last season and absolutely cannot afford to drop the first of its two matchups with the defending AFC North champions.

Ben Roethlisberger is looking to make his first start since suffering a knee injury in the Steelers’ Week 3 victory over the St. Louis Rams. And despite reports that Roethlisberger is expected to start against the Bengals early in the week, contradictory reports have come out also come out, saying that Big Ben will not be getting his hopes up that he he will be able to play, given the gravity of his knee injury.

If there’s one thing that the Cincinnati Bengals know about this week’s matchup, it’s that the Pittsburgh Steelers absolutely cannot afford to lose this game alone. The Bengals already eliminated the Ravens’ playoff aspirations with a decisive Week 3 victory over Baltimore, effectively putting a nail in the coffin of the Ravens’ disappointing season. How amazing would it be for the Bengals to essentially knock the Steelers out of the division race and force Pittsburgh to duke it out for a Wild Card berth at best?

Winning this game would propel the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals to a franchise best 7-0 start, and it would simultaneously act as a knockout punch to the Steelers’ chances of winning a second consecutive division title, as the Bengals would have a 3.5-game lead over Pittsburgh in the division race.

Cincinnati needs to win this game on Sunday.

Next: Week 9: vs. Cleveland Browns