These aren't Myron Cope's Cincy Bungals anymore

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati visits Heinz Field for a prime-time match-up this Sunday with a chance to put the final nail in the coffin of the Steelers playoff chances. It would be the second straight season the Bengals (a three point road favorite) could eliminate Pittsburgh at home. If that's not a sign that times have changed, and that these are no longer the "Bungals," I don't know what is.

There's still a dusting of hope the Steelers will somehow win three games in a row to make the postseason at 8-8 and be a scary juggernaut that nobody will want to play.

There's also a chance monkeys could fly out of my butt and that Sara Bareilles will allow me to be her date at the Grammys in February.

Who are we kidding? The Steelers will not only miss the playoffs for a second straight season, there's a pretty decent chance they'll be officially eliminated for a second straight year at Heinz Field by AFC North rival Cincinnati when the long-time division doormat comes to town for Sunday Night Football.

Can you believe that? The team that late broadcaster Myron Cope once famously dubbed "the Bungals" is now the class of the division. I say this because the Bengals are 9-4 and have a two-game lead over Baltimore in the AFC North with three weeks remaining. Therefore, unless the Ghost of Bungals Past pays a visit for Christmas, Cincinnati will not only win the division, thanks to a victory over the Patriots earlier in the year, a bye in the first round of the playoffs is also possible.

Remember when we would automatically chalk-up two victories every year because we knew the Steelers played in the same division as Cincinnati?

Remember when when all those Bengals players got arrested? Remember when they drafted so poorly, they had to pick Akili Smith in the first round to make up for drafting David Klinger in the first round? And remember when they had to make up for both of those picks by drafting Carson Palmer in the first round?

Andy Dalton, a second round pick in 2011, certainly didn't come into the NFL with the same fanfare as those previously mentioned signal-callers, but with 3400 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, he's currently giving Ben Roethlisberger a run for his money as the best the AFC North has to offer.

Of course, it helps to have weapons such as A.J. Green, a receiver on the cusp of taking Megatron's title as most feared in all the NFL, along with tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, two pretty decent halves of one Rob Gronkowski (Transformers. See what I did there?)

Heck, some guy named Marvin Jones has over 500 receiving yards for the Bengals.

Speaking of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, Cincinnati's running back position may not boast an Adrian Peterson, but with over 1200 yards combined, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard make a more than potent backfield duo.

The rookie Bernard also has 47 catches and over 400 receiving yards out of the backfield.

The Bengals are scary good and scary balanced--and that's just on offense.

Let's not forget about a defense that has 36 sacks--including a combined 19.5 by three of its down linemen (Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and some guy named Wallace Gilberry).

Cody Wallace better be prepared to do more dirty stuff.

In addition to that, the Bengals defense has 23 takeaways and is sixth in the NFL, allowing just under 19 points a game.

I mentioned the victory over New England (the soon-to-be AFC East champs), but did you see what the Bengals did to Indianapolis this past Sunday?

Cincinnati took the AFC South champions and used them to clear the snow out of Paul Brown Stadium to the tune of a 42-28 butt-whipping (and the game wasn't nearly that close).

The Bengals are for real, and for my money, they have to be considered serious Super Bowl contenders. Heck, they're so good, after the Ravens defeated them in overtime earlier in the year, a Baltimore player was heard exclaiming, "Thank you, Jesus!"

When was the last time anyone--players or fans--needed to look to the Heavens to give thanks for a victory over Cincinnati?

You better believe, this Sunday, when the Bengals come to town, I'm going to be looking to you, Myron. A return of some "Bungals" spirit might be the only thing that can save the Steelers from clinching their first losing season in a decade.

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