Is Bengals’ mindset Super Bowl or winning a playoff game?

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BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 27: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals passes the ball while tackle Eric Winston #73 of the Cincinnati Bengals defends against the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 27: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals passes the ball while tackle Eric Winston #73 of the Cincinnati Bengals defends against the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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The 2017 season will be a tough road for the Bengals. It will determine if they have the mindset to go beyond the same old goals.

The issue has been raised many times before and will no doubt be discussed this season. Countless fans will huddle together in bars, taverns and man caves with the same burning question. Will the Cincinnati Bengals make the playoffs? Can they improve upon a disappointing 2016 campaign and prove they are a legitimate threat in the AFC North and beyond? After reloading with a ton of youth, speed and power, the sky’s the limit. But, the mindset at Paul Brown Stadium has to change.

For five consecutive years, the Bengals were a fixture in the NFL’s postseason derby.  But, the one-and-done results have become renowned and part of Cincinnati lore. Being a Bengals fan means embracing the ridicule of those who cheer for teams with Super Bowl wins. Even fans rooting for teams with a mere playoff win in the past 10 years will jump on the pile. In the meantime, fans of the Orange & Black eagerly await the fate of the football gods each year.

Essentially, it’s come down to one simple detail. Are the Bengals mentally prepared to go further than the first round? The Mistake on the Ohio has been seared into the memories of Bengals fans. Like the two Super Bowl losses, Cincy came painfully close to winning. But, once again, the mindset wasn’t complete. No, it wasn’t Jeremy Hill’s fault. His mission was to carry the ball and run the clock out, on that fateful January night. Getting into the “what if” scenario does no good. The game was lost because of more than the fumble.

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Maybe a stern lesson in how to focus is necessary. Would a visit from a hypnotist or therapist pry those hidden desires out of hiding? Somehow, this season has to be the one that ends differently. Whether it’s a mediocre year that turns into a deep playoff run or a domination of the North, things have to change. Honestly, most Bengals faithful will take a 10-6 record if it ends with a trip to Minneapolis.

Remember when Domata Peko made your blood boil? He had the audacity to say the Bengals’ organization thinks too small. But, was he way off with his assessment of the situation?

"“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.”"

Yeah, that still stings after a couple of months. Additionally, it makes sense. Think of interviews with Bengals players. It’s usually the same rhetoric about getting to the playoffs. But, since that Peko jab, it’s been about the Super Bowl. Maybe there’s some mystical curse associated with mentioning the Big Dance during the offseason. Yeah, right. It’s mindset and the Bengals are slowly starting to understand that.

Sit Down…Be Humble

With any other franchise, the humble vibe would be appropriate. Most of the NFL’s other teams have won a playoff game since…whatever. Writing about it can cause severe anger attacks. Twenty-six years is long enough (January 6, 1991). It’s time to talk about moving beyond the constraints of a playoff win. The Bengals have enough firepower to achieve Super Bowl LII and more.

A.J. Green is ready for a trip to the Super Bowl and AJ McCarron is confident about the state of the young Bengals’ mindset. But, will it carry over to all the players?

Next: Way Too Early

"“We’re going to be young,” McCarron said via AL.com, “but just from seeing the team in the offseason and mandatory minicamp, there’s a bunch of hungry guys. It’s awesome to see. You can see the youth coming out in the team, and I think it’s going to be a special group. I think we have a good shot at surprising a lot of people.”"

Hopefully, that hunger is from the smell of more than winning a playoff game. It’s time to make Super Bowl conversations contagious. It’s time to change the culture of Bengals Nation.

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