AFC North Week 7: Bengals-Steelers stakes just got higher

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PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Giovani Bernard #25 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates his touchdown reception with Tyler Boyd #83 in the fourth quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on September 18, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Giovani Bernard #25 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates his touchdown reception with Tyler Boyd #83 in the fourth quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on September 18, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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When the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Week 7, there will be more than pride on the line. The AFC North is up for grabs.

Just when you thought things were getting a little easier, Week 6 hands the Bengals (2-3) a rock. Yes, it’s the magical month of October and spooky things are on tap. But, Cincinnati was handed a bag full of tricks with no treats from the Steelers (4-2). The Bengals will be going into their divisional matchup with Pittsburgh hoping to gain ground.

What should have been a half-game difference in the standings is now a game and a half. The Steelers knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) and are flying high for the first game of the divisional series.

What makes the situation a head-scratcher is how the football gods tossed the Bengals a bone and then kicked them in the shins. Things seemed to be rolling the Bengals’ way, after the Steelers dropped a 30-9 decision to the Jaguars. The Jags made Pittsburgh look like a team with no direction. But, losing two in a row is a rarity for that team from the Northeast. They took care of the previously unscathed Chiefs and, now, look to take control of the AFC North.

This Game Is Big 

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Whenever the Steelers and Bengals meet, it’s a big deal. Cincinnati has yet to shed the “little brother” moniker that has been applied to the rivalry with the Yellow and Black. But, this game is big for reasons beyond the obvious. Of course, the Bengals need to stay in step with the Steelers. That’s certainly a given. Falling more than a game behind Pittsburgh is dangerous. With the AFC North looking like a three-team race, the Bengals need this game like their next breath of fresh air.

Yet, with all the evident reasons, the main reason Cincy needs this game is pride. There comes a time when the Bengals must take destiny into their own hands and make magic happen. That incredible feat has to come in Week 7. Not only will the Bengals have a chance to show they’re ready for the big time, they’ll be in a position to keep the ball rolling. The Bengals are 2-1 under the fresh, new Bill Lazor-led offense. They have a surprising Week 5 win over the Buffalo Bills. Now, all they need is to continue that pace with a win over the Steelers.

It Gets Old…But

Say it with me, class: “The Bengals have to sweep Pittsburgh to take the division.” Now, that’s not a statement written in blood (darn October again) but it’s a given that the road to the AFC North crown goes through Pitt. As soon as fans start thinking the way is clear, here come those pesky guys from the Ketchup State.

A repeat of the 2015 scenario would be awesome. The Bengals waltzed onto Heinz Field and came away with a 16-10 victory. The defense is playing at a level way beyond that of two years ago. This is the time to go on the road and make things quiet. There’s no sugar-coating this matchup. Whatever it takes, Marvin Lewis and the coaching staff need to pull out all the stops and post a W.

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It may seem like warmed-over soup, but the Bengals need this game. It’s never guaranteed that the Paul Brown Stadium clash will be won by the home team. So, taking care of business in Pittsburgh is a necessity that can’t be overlooked.

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