Bengals News

Bengals still alive in AFC playoff picture after first win in Denver since ’75

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DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 19: Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on from the sideline during a game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 19, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 19: Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on from the sideline during a game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 19, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Bengals are still “in the hunt” in the AFC playoff picture with a 4-6 record.

Andy Dalton threw three touchdowns and the Bengals forced two crucial turnovers to defeat the Denver Broncos, 20-17, on Sunday. The win, Cincinnati’s first in Denver since the Gerald Ford administration, kept the Bengals’ slim playoff hopes alive.

As it sits right now, the Bengals have an 8 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to a playoff simulator by the New York Times. That number jumps to 14 percent if Cincinnati beats the winless Browns, who come to PBS this Sunday.

The good news

First of all, it’s a miracle the Bengals are still in the hunt. With sub-par O-line play, the NFL’s worst rushing offense and a first-round pick sitting on the sidelines as a healthy scratch, the Bengals should be contending for a top-three pick.

The AFC has been lackluster at best this season outside New England, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. There are six 4-6 clubs in the conference (Cincinnati included) and it’s easy to write off a few – New York, Houston, Miami – as sure-fire 6-10/7-9 teams.

Andy Dalton’s three touchdown passes led Cincinnati to a 20-17 win over the Broncos and kept the Bengals alive in the playoff conversation. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Andy Dalton’s three touchdown passes led Cincinnati to a 20-17 win over the Broncos and kept the Bengals alive in the playoff conversation. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

(The many pessimistic members of Who Dey Nation would surely group the Bengals in that list, too. )

Right now the two Wild Card spots belong to Tennessee and Baltimore. The Titans have been streaky this year, beating the Jaguars and Seahawks. But, they were also beaten by Jay Cutler, lost by 43 to Houston and needed overtime to beat the Browns in a game with no touchdowns.

They were riding a four-game winning streak going into last Thursday but didn’t convince anyone when they were blown out by the first-place Steelers.

The Ravens were once again graced by an opponent without its starting quarterback. They forced five turnovers and blanked the Brett Hundley-led Packers in Week 11. Baltimore’s beaten Andy Dalton, DeShone Kizer, E.J. Manuel, Matt Moore and Hundley this season.

Buffalo is in a tailspin after benching Tyrod Taylor. The Bills have lost their last three games by a combined 80 points and still have to play New England twice.

The race for the AFC’s Wild Card spots is the definition of a toss-up. The Bengals play four of their final six at Paul Brown Stadium. There is a chance that 8-8 earns you the six seed.

The bad news

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The four teams Cincinnati has beat this season have a combined record of 11-29. Its six remaining opponents are an even 30-30 (skewed largely by Cleveland’s 10 losses).

After a battle with Cleveland, the Bengals host the Steelers on Monday Night Football. Cincinnati also has to visit the first-place Vikings (8-2) and host Matthew Stafford and the Lions (6-4). Those are the three games remaining against teams with a winning record. Even if 8-8 gets you in, the Bengals have to win at least one of those contests.

Cincinnati ends its season with a visit to Baltimore. The Ravens, no matter how poor their offense has been, still has a defense that has three shutouts this season (including Week 1 against Cincinnati) and leads the NFL in takeaways. One way to disguise Joe Flacco’s career-worst 74.4 passer rating is to not let your opponent score. Who knew?

The Bengals getting in the playoffs would take 4-5 more wins. But it would also require some help.

Baltimore hosts Houston on Monday night this week, then plays back to back games against Detroit and Pittsburgh, respectively. But the Ravens end their season with the Colts and Browns, then Cincinnati in Week 17.

Bottom line

As cliche as it sounds, the Bengals have to handle their own business. That starts with Cleveland.

The Browns, looking to avoid a partnership with the ’08 Lions, would love nothing more than to celebrate their only win at the hands of their in-state rival. And nothing would be more embarrassing for the Bengals and Marvin Lewis, who (by all accounts) is on the last leg of a 15-year stint in the Queen City.

Can the Bengals finish 4-2 or 5-1? The way they’ve won recently has been ugly (Colts, Broncos), but you know the Lloyd Christmas line by now.

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