The Cincinnati Bengals are supposed to be in the toughest stretch of their schedule right now but you wouldn't know it by watching them play. They took care of business against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football, improving to 5-3 on the year.
With the football game in the record books, let's take a look at two positive takeaways from the game as well as a negative takeaway.
Positive: Offense and Defense are both clicking
The Bengals offense scored 14 points in the first quarter and tacked on another touchdown right before halftime to put the good guys up 21-7 at the half. The defense allowed one Bills touchdown at the beginning of the game but that was it for quite a while.
The defense also had key takeaways in the game, including the recovered fumble at the start of the fourth quarter that occurred when the Bills were in the red zone. This defense might be the definition of a "bend-but-don't-break" unit. They allowed the Bills to move down the field but stopped them when it mattered most.
There might not be a better team in the NFL right now than the Bengals. Unfortunately, that brings me to the negative takeaway.
Negative: Bengals somehow still in last place in AFC North
Despite sitting at 5-3 and looking like one of the best teams in the league, the Bengals are still in the cellar of their division. They own the same records as the Browns and Steelers but the Browns own the head-to-head tiebreaker and the Steelers have more division wins than Cincinnati. The Bengals have only beaten one AFC team now but their other four wins came against the NFC West, so that doesn't help them much in the tie-breaking scenarios.
There's still plenty of time for the Browns and Steelers to mess up in the second half of the season but the Ravens are ahead by two games and they own the tiebreaker over Cincinnati. It's going to take a near-perfect run down the stretch if the Bengals want to win the AFC North for a third straight year.
Positive: Tight Ends made an impact
I've certainly been tough on the Bengals' tight end group this year but could you blame me? Irv Smith Jr. had an atrocious fumble last week in San Francisco and has been mostly invisible all season long, Drew Sample is Drew Sample, and Tanner Hudson hadn't gotten a chance to do anything until this week.
Well, in this game, the Bengals tight ends looked pretty good! Sample had his second career touchdown that put the Bengals up 21-7 before the half and Hudson had four catches for 45 yards. As for Smith, he had three catches for 26 yards with one of those catches going for a touchdown, his first as a Bengal.
Fans were rightfully irritated that the Bengals didn't add help at the tight end position at the trade deadline but maybe -- just maybe -- this group will be all right moving forward.