1. Say the phrase "Cincinnati at Denver, AFC Championship game" to yourself. What do you think of immediately when you are finished?
I think it is a possibility. The Bengals need to finish the season strong and then take care of the first game in the playoffs. There has to be some psychological block when you go to the playoffs and get bounced in the first round game after game. Winning the first one could solve a lot of what ails the Bengals.
I wrote a piece earlier this week about how I think this team is better than the 2005 team (that split with theSteelers then lost the game where Carson Palmer's knee exploded). Many Bengals fans think that if Carson stayed healthy, that was the Bengals best shot at a Super Bowl run. The Steelers as you know went on to take the title. Getting past the first round is the first step to making it to a Championship game.
2. Outside of Cleveland, who's in a rebuilding pattern that only mirrors major interstates and the entire Middle East, Baltimore and Pittsburgh can both be considered in rebuilding years, but Cincinnati is surging. Arguably the most balanced team in the league, if this team does not win a playoff game this postseason, what will be the reason?
At that point you have to point a finger at the coaches. The talent is there and the team is clicking so a failure in the playoffs would be on the coaches. Think back to last season, when the Bengals faced the Texans in the playoffs for the second year in a row. The Bengals game plan in the first half was insane. They did not look for A.J. Green. Someone thought it was a smart idea to eliminate the best player on the field from the offense. This is the kind of decision that happens when you out think yourself.
3. The Bengals dominated the Steelers in Week 2, yet, the game was fairly tight until an interception midway through the fourth quarter. What differences will we see in this Cincinnati team in the re-match?
It was a closer game than people expected and some of that is on Andy Dalton. He missed some things in the first half that could have opened that game up. I attended the first game and the team seemed flat. The fans also were fairly quiet.
I think we see a similar game this Sunday. One where the game is tighter than expected, but the Bengals control it enough for the win. Division games are tough in the AFC North. You never know what to expect, I am sure the Steelers would love to knock the Bengals down a notch and the Bengals want to bury the Steelers. It is the nature of that beast.
4. Rookie tight end Tyler Eifert was a name bandied around by many a Steelers-fan-turned-draft-
Eifert has performed well but there is still plenty of room for growth. Bengals fans want to see more production from the tight end position with Eifert and Jermaine Gresham. They are on pace to be close to 1000 ydsreceiving but the talent between the two is outstanding. Eifert can be used like a wide out as well as a tight end. His hands and ability to get open are awesome and at times he has shown up huge for this offense.
I think he does have an impact on Sunday night. I think the tight end position is one area where the Bengals can exploit the Steelers. Clear everyone out and have the Bengals talented tight ends make plays against linebackers.
5. Does beating Pittsburgh carry with it extra weight in terms of confidence-building, and conversely, would losing to Pittsburgh be worse than a loss to, say, Miami?
I think any time the Bengals can beat Pittsburgh it is a confidence booster. There is a rivalry and hatred there no matter the records. We remember Bill Cowher leading the chant of "We Dey" in the Bengals house and it still stings.
A loss to the Steelers would be worse than a loss to Miami because of the timing of it.
The Bengals are in the home stretch, and losing to a team that you are supposed to handle is no way to maintain confidence. The media will hammer them and fans will be up in arms. One knock on the Bengals in recent history is they can not win the big games. While this is not a "big game" it is nationally televised and will either build momentum and confidence for the Bengals or have them lose favor in the eyes of the masses.
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