The Bengals will need a healthy Vontaze Burfict and a little luck to make the playoffs this year. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Just before the 2014 NFL season began, we made some predictions about what the Cincinnati Bengals were likely to do on a game-by-game basis, and then we updated our picks at the quarter-pole of the season. On the whole, the Bengals have shaped up to be about what we thought they were, wrapping up their first eight games with a 5-2-1 record.
What we didn’t anticipate was just how streaky the team would be, or how banged up they would be. From week to week, nothing is guaranteed with these Bengals.
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With the benefit of eight games’ worth of experience, here are our updated predictions for the remaining eight games on the Bengals’ 2014 regular-season schedule:
Week 10 vs. Cleveland Browns: I originally said that Cleveland would need a miracle to win this game. With Giovani Bernard and Vontaze Burfict out, and coming off a scant few days of rest, the Bengals just might serve one up. Loss
Week 11 at New Orleans Saints: The Saints have not been playing well, but they will be tough at home. The Bengals will use one of their trick plays to gain the upper hand in The Big Easy. Win
Week 12 at Houston Texans: The Texans are improved over the 2013 version of the team, but they’re not in Cincy’s league yet. Bengals win. Win
Week 13 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lovie Smith has a mess on his hands in the Bay, and they won’t be able to hang with the Bengals. Win
Week 14 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are coming together, and they are playing like an offensive behemoth that could steamroll just about any team, as they did with the Indianpolis Colts. Too much for these Bengals to handle. Loss
Week 15 at Cleveland Browns: I’m now torn on this game, because Cleveland will be at home, but hopefully the Bengals will be a bit more rested and healthier. I’m leaning Bengals, but it could go the other way. Win
Week 16 vs. Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning will carry the day as the Broncos wrap up another playoff-bound season. Loss
Week 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers: At home in the final game of the season, the Steelers will either be fighting for a playoff spot, and they will be just about unstoppable under those circumstances. Loss
I’ve significantly dampened my expectations since we last did this exercise about a month ago, and it’s not hard to imagine a .500 second half. That would leave the Bengals at 9-6-1 and quite possibly outside of the playoffs. Be prepared to chew some fingernails as the 2014 unwinds between now and the New Year.