Year 50 should mark a turning point for the Bengals franchise. Essentially, it should signal Super Bowl or bust all year.
The scenario isn’t a complicated one. If the Bengals are going to make a return to the playoffs, they have to start fast and stay focused. There are no promises in the NFL. Wait. That was an outright lie. The league will chew you up and spit you out, if you’re not prepared. So, outside of help from the football gods, there are no guaranteed endings. Any fairy tale stories about Cinderella crashing the postseason party starts with confidence.
How do the Bengals kick the door in and crash the party this season? The key will be who steps up on offense and defense to lead the charge. But, it doesn’t end there. If the Bengals are going to do it right, there has to be a complete shift in thinking. No more just getting to the playoffs and being content. It should be about showing the NFL landscape they have the talent and desire to go further.
Focus On The Bigger Prize
If you’ve ever been to a carnival, you should remember seeing people trying to win prizes. They would spend countless minutes and hours trying to get what they wanted. In the process, some people spend too much. Then there are others who seem to walk up, get a ticket or two and win the grand prize. Honestly, it’s not that easy. Some of those people have studied what it takes to win that prize. Short of an engineering degree, it’s definitely about focus and determination.
Mike Brown has pledged his dedication to fans. Apparently, his thought process is firmly on bringing that silver hardware to the Banks of Cincinnati. A Lombardi would look great. The Reds have done it. No more excuses about small market handicaps. And as most fans remember, the Bengals have been to the Promised land twice under Paul Brown. Now, the coaches and players have to follow suit.
When the 2017 season gets under way, there should be a noticeable difference. Players and coaches should be talking AFC North crown, AFC Championship and Super Bowl.
There should be a dogged determination that borders on obsession. Listening to players from the Super Bowl teams is fascinating. There’s a glitter in their eyes and an overall appearance of feeling satisfied. To a certain degree, the job was left unfinished in 1981 and ‘88. This is the year to tie those loose ends.
The Main Ingredients
This year has to be fine tuned from beginning to end. Both Super Bowl teams had stretches that showed their dominance during the regular season. The ‘88 team began the year with a 6-0 record. In 1981, there was a five game winning streak, after Week 8, to let the doubters know they were real.
Ken Zampese must have the offense on the same page immediately. They have to work like a well-oiled machine. The O-line? What about it (that was just uttered in my best New York accent)? Eventually, a light will go on. The chemistry will kick in and Andy Dalton will have time to pass. The running game will benefit from the newfound confidence of the offensive line.
Defensively, this team is a terror on paper. But, that intensity has to be translated to the playing field. DC Paul Guenther and Marvin Lewis need to have the players swarming to the ball and stripping it. Take a page from the Denver Broncos’ 2015 season. The defense should create opportunities for the offense.
This is purely conjecture, at this point of the season. But, it has to start somewhere. Essentially, the Bengals coaches and players have to set goals and refuse to deter from them.
Above all, year 50 should be a turning point. It should end with a battle for the Lombardi.