The Bengals will have to come out of the gates full throttle. There can be no concern over a weak or strong schedule. It’s all about winning early.
This is the year that it has to happen. The Cincinnati Bengals have teased fans with draft choices and free agent acquisitions. Now, it’s time to put the pieces together and make some magic happen. If you’re thinking you’ve heard this fairy tale before, you have. Being a believer of the Orange & Black is a constant trip down the rabbit hole. But, this is truly a pivotal year for the Bengals. Another slow start could mean disaster.
After dangling a playoff win in front of starving fans, the Bengals promptly dropped the ball last year. Since they had come so close to snatching a last-minute victory from the Steelers, 2016 was supposed to be the coming out party. Cincinnati was destined to get a Bye Week and run the table like the Super Bowl teams of the 1980s. Needless to say, the plan didn’t materialize. The Stripes dropped from a franchise high 12-4 to a humbling 6-9-1. They succeeded in thoroughly confusing analysts and Bengals Nation.
Things Have To Change…Quickly
The AFC North is revamping. Cleveland is throwing money around like confetti. When the Browns snatched Kevin Zeitler, it was apparent their agenda was about posting W’s. The Ravens are bulking up on defense and Pittsburgh is looking at the return of their speedster Martavis Bryant. But, none of this says the Bengals are doomed to looking up from the ground floor of the division. It does mean Cincy has to come out slugging.
In other words, the gloves have to come off. There has to be a sense of urgency in everything the Bengals decide to do. The 2017 campaign will be the starting point for a new era. There has to be a killer instinct developed early and used often.
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There can be no underestimating of opponents because the schedule is supposed to be weak. Treating each game like a potential playoff battle will prepare Cincinnati for their journey into the postseason. But, it has to start with the Baltimore opener. They have to set the tone for the year and stay on that level.
Before The Bye
It’s totally possible to see the Bengals sitting at 5-0 before the break. But, it’s just as likely to see them hovering at 2-3. The Cleveland game is a must win along with each battle against Houston and the Ravens. A repeat of the 2015 start could energize Bengals fans and give the team a boost going into Pittsburgh.
The cry has been for more early home games. Well, three of the first five are at Paul Brown Stadium. That scenario sets up no worse than a 4-1 mark. Marvin Lewis has to embrace the “never lose a home game” mentality. Losing three before Week 6 isn’t a killer for the season. But, one look at what happened last year should be enough motivation.
Getting an early stranglehold on the North will definitely move the Bengals into a position to do what 2017 is all about: getting back to the postseason. The added momentum and treating each game like a primetime affair or the playoffs will help Cincy finally get over the dry spell.