If the Cincinnati Bengals are going to turn things around, the time is now. Riding a five-game winning streak won’t be enough. The AFC North is at stake.
When the Bengals take the field at M&T Bank Stadium, the situation won’t be bleak. But, in the world of mathematical elimination and needing other teams to help, it’s time to deliver. The Ravens will be looking to stay alive in the tight AFC North as well. Coming out flat is not an option for the Bengals.
Since the Week 7 beatdown of Cleveland, the Bengals are 1-2-1. They haven’t played well against quality teams and the schemes on both sides of the ball are horrendous. But, by the grace of the football gods, they’re still alive in the North.
How did they get so bad so quickly? That question is on the minds of every Bengals fan far and wide. Last year was supposed to be the jumpstart to a season that would produce another playoff. Unfortunately, those plans may have been made prematurely. The Pittsburgh Steelers spanked Indianapolis, on Thanksgiving night, to take control of the division. Both the Ravens and Steelers have schedules that are favorable.
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It’s all about desire. My mantra since the Browns blowout has been simple. In order to get things turned around, the Bengals have to find the fire that propelled them to an 8-0 start in 2015. There was no lack of passion and determination. Finding the emotional commitment is on both the players and the coaching staff.
Play Like It Matters
Simply put, the Bengals have to perform at the intensity level of a playoff game. In fact, it will be that kind of atmosphere in Baltimore. The Ravens haven’t beaten the Bengals since…since whenever. Actually, it was November 10, 2013. With that kind of streak going, Cincinnati should be a lock to win. Wrong.
The Ravens’ roster has changed. There are only 14 remaining players from that 2013 squad. Attitudes have changed and the will to break the streak is strong.
“We’re all tired of losing to the Bengals all the time. That’s the nature of football. You can talk about it all you want, but you got out there and do it Sunday.”
Mosley has a point. It’s about getting fired up for the game and doing your job. That’s what distinguished last year’s Bengals from the current version. The pride to make it happen seems to be gone. Whether it’s the coaching or personal demons, the determination has disappeared.
Time after time, Bengals players have talked about getting the fire back and making it happen. But, a 3-6-1 record doesn’t scream attitude. If anything, the polar opposite has taken effect. Whenever Cincinnati has been faced with a must-win scenario, the results are predictable.
The D And Offense Have To Deliver
Yes, it hurts. Watching the Bengals offense can be painful. Each time Ken Zampese has the O-Line shift into a space-age formation, I honestly want to barf. What was once effective under Hue Jackson needs to be scrapped. Witnessing huge linemen lumber back from a wideout position is both hilarious and heartbreaking. The energy used to run back to the line could be used for protecting the QB.
There’re no excuses for this one. Rex Burkhead will have to step it up. Getting the running game going will be crucial, with the loss of Giovani Bernard and A.J. Green. The Ravens will put double coverage on Tyler Eifert and force Andy Dalton to use his other weapons. Hopefully, Zampese has made the proper adjustments.
Everyone knows that Marvin Lewis’ job is at stake. Well, it should be. But, Paul Guenther has to get the production from his unit. It’s all about responsibility. Whatever it takes to get the defense back to last year’s standard needs to happen now. Teams are getting healthy against the Bengals’ defense. Returning from a banner year, the defense was supposed to be the backbone of the Bengals’ playoff push. Instead, Cincinnati is ranked in the bottom half against the run.
Whatever happens Sunday, the Bengals need to prove that they still have the passion for playing in this league.