After the Baltimore Ravens’ thrilling win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, it’s all tied up in the AFC North. The Cincinnati Bengals missed their opportunity to go top of the table in Week 2, and now they’ll have to fight harder to make it to the playoffs.
Believe it or not, they actually have a chance.
Of all the other NFL divisions, the AFC North is the only one with a four-way tie: each team has won one game and lost one game. The deadlock won’t last long since the Bengals will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in their Week 3 matchup.
Let’s take a brief look at how each AFC North team is doing so far.
The Bengals and Steelers could have gone 2-0 after winning their season openers, but both faltered in their second game: Cincinnati in their turnover-heavy game against the Bears, and the Steelers against Derek Carr’s commanding performance for the Raiders.
The Ravens and Browns bounced back to win their first games of the season in Week 2, though the Ravens’ victory was much more entertaining and impressive. Cleveland dragged out an ugly win at home against Houston while Lamar Jackson and Baltimore beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs for the first time in Jackson’s career. Our sincere congratulations.
The Browns will move on to face the Chicago Bears in Week 3, and the Ravens will play against the Detroit Lions.
The AFC North will likely be a pressure cooker for the rest of the season as each team tries to gain ground in one of the league’s most competitive divisions.
But repeat this with me: the Bengals have a chance.
The AFC North is all tied up after Week 2, but could the Cincinnati Bengals take an early lead?
The Bengals have a chance at the playoffs, to be exact, and it starts with beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
We’re still not sure how the Steelers upset the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, but whatever voodoo magic happened there has since worn off. The Steelers showed their true hand in their loss to the Raiders, and that was partially due to their severely wounded defense.
Now, Cincinnati can pounce. Of all the AFC North teams, the Bengals might have the healthiest roster, with third-rounder Joseph Ossai out for the season and starting corner Trae Waynes nursing a hamstring injury.
Compared to the Ravens’ and Steelers’ seemingly endless injured reserve list? We’ll take it.
The Bengals won against Pittsburgh in their only division victory of 2020, and maybe that’s not something we should brag about when we won only four games total last year.
But it does bode cautious optimism for the Bengals-Steelers matchup in Week 3.
In last year’s shocking upset, the Bengals played with Ryan Finley at quarterback, Giovani Bernard as their top running back, and A.J. Green as their top pass-catcher.
Now, they have Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, and the holy trinity of Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Ja’Marr Chase.
Granted, Higgins and Boyd did play for Cincinnati last season, but this year they’ve become 2.0 versions of themselves with Burrow’s arm giving them more chances than before.
If Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh then, they have even better odds to do so this week (though Pittsburgh remain the favorites in this matchup,)
This is also Burrow’s first game against Cincinnati’s division rivals, and he can put his three-pick game behind him and blaze a new path for the Bengals’ future.
A future that could very well include a playoff berth.
Burrow and the Bengals will face one of the rowdiest crowds in Heinz Stadium, stepping onto the same field that saw so many Cincinnati players before them slump and falter.
The AFC North may be tied for now, but the Bengals have their sights set on the prize.