There seems to be a new mindset flowing through Bengals players. Though it’s still early, the talk has changed from playoffs to Super Bowl.
It can get really easy to fall into that mediocre rut. Actually, it’s not even about the playing. The Bengals have proven they can ball with the best of the NFL, on a good day. Unfortunately, the 2016 season was not only bad, it was a nightmare. After teasing fans with an almost W in the Wild Card round, it was more heartache and wishful thinking. But, this new edition of the Bengals is looking for something more.
Without getting into the deep, psychological issues behind the current postseason drought, let’s just say things are looking up. Suddenly, the Bengals seem to understand that it’s about more than the basics. Getting over the playoff dilemma has been ingrained in the fabric of Cincinnati for so long, it’s a thing of legend. Conversations about the Bengals automatically swerve to the lack of wins after the regular season. With that type of mindset in the city–and in the locker room–it’s hard to look down the line.
But, this could be the time. Being a Bengals fan, it’s always dangerous to say positive things so early. Training camp is still on the horizon and anything can happen. Yet, this year feels different. There’s an air about the players and the coaches that reeks of confidence. Having that bravado should come with the commitment of being an NFL player. But, it has been questioned in Bengals Nation.
The Peko Factor?
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It would be so easy to give the credit to this man. Frankly, that’s what I’m going to do. When Domata Peko decided he wanted to take a jab at his old team, he may have been the catalyst for a turnaround. It’s funny how fans reacted and wanted his head for what he said. But, the anger and frustration came from a true statement.
"“In Cincy, we were kind of always talking about, ‘Oh, I want to win a playoff game. I want to win a playoff game,’” Peko said, via DenverBroncos.com. “But over here, we’re talking about winning championships. That’s what brought me here. I want to win a championship.”"
That phrase still stings. And it’s supposed to. There was hardly ever a time to think about a championship until the playoff win was accomplished. Twenty-six years without a playoff W will cause a rut. That’s the mental aspect we discussed earlier. But, everything happens for a reason. The Mean Ole Lion took a whack at the Bengals and may have given them what they need.
Can We Be Sure?
Vontaze Burfict has come back from the offseason with a new determination. Burfict is in the best shape of his career and ready to dive into battle. Not that he’s never wanted to go past that first round, but he’s verbalizing his thoughts. That’s an aspect of things the Bengals have been missing. Speak it into existence. Go beyond what’s expected. Taze did just that, per Bengals.com.
"“Everything has felt great,” Burfict says. “Running wise. Field wise. Conditioning wise. This is the best I’ve felt.”"
But, what about the Big Dance? Are the Bengals ready for the move forward?
"“It’s a little bit of hungriness because you know what you have to do to get there. And you know what you are capable of doing to get there,” Burfict reflected. “So why not keep trying and just push to get to the Super Bowl?”"
Did you notice how he didn’t stop with the “playoffs” insanity?
The Bengals future and current legend, A.J. Green, is onboard with the same mentality. Green is ready to get to LI and shock the world. And by setting the bar higher for himself, he’ll lift the goals of the entire team.
"“One Super Bowl, that’s all I need,” Green stressed. “That’s the only number that matters. That’s all I need. One is good.”"
Granted, this isn’t a lock for the Super Bowl. But, it beats hearing about that measly playoff win. Maybe, the Bengals can get it done and move on to bigger things.