The Cincinnati Bengals lost in the worst way a team could dream of at home. In a must win game for both teams, the Dallas Cowboys trailed the Bengals by nine points heading into the fourth quarter. Many thought the game was over and the Cowboys would be sent packing back to Dallas to lick their wounds.
As we have learned as football fans through the years, you should never count a team out until the game is over. Just as Cincinnati fans were high-fiving in the stands, the unthinkable happened. Tony Romo orchestrated two drives that ate up 6:56 off of the clock. A touchdown by Dez Bryant and a 40 yard field goal attempt as the game clock reached 0:00 put the Cowboys on top of the Bengals by one point.
All of the celebration in the stands from fans dressed in orange and black, turned somber. It was like asking for a puppy for Christmas and opening your eyes on Christmas day to find a pair of long underwear under the tree instead. The Bengals let themselves and their fans down on Sunday.
However, we as fans and the Bengals as a team should remain optimistic moving forward. Though the team lost in the worst way possible and hearts broke all around the Queen City, Cincinnati still has a good shot to end the season on a high note.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, also looking to seal their playoff fate, both lost their matchups on Sunday. The Steelers loss kept them tied with the Bengals for the last AFC Wild Card spot and the Ravens loss kept them from closing out the division with an AFC North title.
This is even better news for the Bengals because the Ravens upcoming schedule is a tough one. Baltimore stays home the next two weeks against a hot Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos team. Denver has won their last eight matchups and is ranked 3rd in the NFL in scoring and 4th in offensive yards. They aren’t so bad on defense either, they are ranked 5th in points allowed, 7th against the pass, and 6th against the run.
Baltimore turns around the next week and has their hands full again with a surging New York Giants team, that has turned up the heat at the end of season. In week 14, the Giants blew out the New Orleans Saints with a score of 52-27. New York’s offense is ranked 4th in points and 9th in yards. This is in contrast to the Ravens, who are ranked 9th in points and 18th in yards on offense and 23rd against the pass and 25th against the run on defense.
They will then face the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati and if Baltimore cannot get it done against the Broncos and Giants, and the Bengals can manage the Eagles on Thursday night and then the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati could have a shot at their first AFC North title since 2009.
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. There is also a team in Pittsburgh that has every opportunity to stand in the Bengals and Ravens way on the road to the playoffs. The Steelers possess the exact same record as the Bengals with a loss last week to the Chargers.
They head to Dallas in week 15 to take on the Cowboys, who are surging at the right time in the season. Every game is a do or die for the ‘Boys and they won’t make it easy for a beaten-up Pittsburgh team to get a win in Cowboys Stadium. It will also mark the first game for Dallas, at home, since the loss of Jerry Brown to a tragic accident. The team will be playing for more than just a win in front of their fans on Sunday.
The Steelers will then head home to face a Bengals team that will want nothing more than to eliminate their division foe from playoff contention. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh always seems to be a good matchup that often comes down to the final quarter of the game. This game will set the Bengals and Pittsburgh teams up for either great disappointment or put them in a great position to head into their final games of the season.
After the tough matchup against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh will play their final game at home against the Cleveland Browns who showed the black and gold the door in the Dawg Pound. The Browns sent the Roethlisberger-less Steelers home with a 20-14 loss in week 12 and will be looking to do the same in week 17 at Heinz Field.
If Cincinnati can manage their schedule properly and stay on top of their game over the next two matchups, Bengals fans could be sending their team off to the playoffs for consecutive seasons. Though, last week felt like a dagger in the chest, hope is not lost in Cincinnati.