Cincinnati Bengals Fumble Away First Round Bye

robertsprague
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It was a cold night in mile high Denver Colorado, as the Bengals took on the Broncos in a high stakes AFC showdown. The Bengals played inspired football to start the game and leapt out to a 14-0 lead. 

Cincinnati looked as though they were going to add to their lead but Mike Nuggent’s kick sailed wide.  From there the momentum shifted, and throughout the second half Denver controlled the tempo of the game.

Cincinnati looked as though they were going to add to their lead but Mike Nuggent’s kick sailed wide. From there, the momentum shifted, and throughout the second half, Denver controlled the tempo. The Bengals never quite got going but were able to tie the game 17 late in the game. The Broncos missed a potential game winning field goal, which looked like they would leave the door open for the Bengals in overtime.

After giving up a field goal to the Broncos, Cincinnati QB A.J. McCarron had a chance to take his team in for the win. This was not to be however, as McCarron fumbled the second snap of the drive and it was recovered by Denver. The Bengals 20-17 loss to the Broncos has many damaging ramifications, some of which may set Cincinnati up for their fifth straight wild card loss.

A first round bye would have been priceless in many ways for the Bengals. The loss Monday night practically guarantees that the Bengals will host a game in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. The Wild Card Round has not been kind to the Bengals, as they have lost their last six playoff appearances on this weekend. In addition to their poor history in the Wild Card, Cincinnati will have to play either the red hot Chiefs, the gritty Jets, or the always tough Steelers. Of those three teams, its hard say who the Bengals would prefer to play. 

It’s safe to say that Bengals Nation would really like to avoid Pittsburgh if possible, but that still leaves the Jets, who just knocked of New England, or Kansas City who hasn’t lost since October. Cincinnati has pretty much forced themselves to face one of these tough opponents in the first round of the playoffs. The silver lining is that it will be a home game for Cincinnati.

To add insult to injury, A.J. McCarron hurt his left wrist on the botched snap that sealed the win for Denver.  McCarron suffered a sprained wrist that was confirmed by an MRI on Tuesday. Though he is likely to start Sunday against the Ravens, in the worst case scenario Cincinnati could be down to their third QB option. Most people probably have no idea who the next man up is for Cincinnati. This is not shocking considering that a few weeks ago there was no third QB.

The man who may end up leading the Bengals this Sunday is Keith Wenning. Wenning has been a member of the Bengals practice squad, yet has never taken a snap during a regular season game. The 6’2” former Ball State standout is not prepared to bare the weight of such an important game. It would make for a great story line to see the Ravens fourth QB, Ryan Mallet, face off against Cincinnati’s third man Wenning. Honestly, Bengals Nation could live without this particular headline.

Perhaps the most important repercussion of Monday night’s loss is that Andy Dalton may not be ready for the Bengals playoff game. Dalton’s injury is not progressing as quickly as hoped by the Bengals and a first round bye may have given him enough time to recover. If Dalton is out, this at best leaves McCarron to make his fourth career start, his first in the post season.

Though Dalton has a bad resume in the playoffs, he is having the best year of his career and he gives the Bengals best chance to win.  Cincinnati could get a first round bye with a win over Baltimore and a Broncos loss, but they can not clinch a bye on their own.  It will take a win by the Bengals and a little luck to give Dalton another week of rest.

It would appear that maybe the famed “Curse of Paul Brown” may still be looming over the franchise. Since the death of their founder the Bengals have not won a playoff game.  In addition to their lack of wins, every Bengals playoff game since 1991 has featured a bad performance by the Bengals QBs.  Skeptics will say that the curse is just a scape goat for a struggling franchise, but the Bengals have had some great teams that have just fallen apart in the playoffs. 

Cincinnati will have at least two more games this season to try improve their standing and win in the post season.  Curse or not this post season is crunch time for the Bengals who are likely to lose many key players to free agency.  Cincinnati must pull together as a team and find a way to win in the playoffs and get their bad history, critics, and fanbase off their backs.

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