Cincinnati Bengals Could Lose Their Division Lead Sunday


Nov 23, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) stiff arms against Houston Texans safety Daniel Manning (38) at NRG Stadium. The Bengals beat the Texans 22-19. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The tightrope that the Cincinnati Bengals have walked all season long could finally snap on Sunday, thanks to surging division rivals and the Bengals’ own lingering dysfunction.   That Johnny Manziel could help dagger the Bengals only adds to the clouds gathering over a once-promising season.  

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The Bengals hit the road to take on the Cleveland Browns tomorrow, holding a slim half-game lead over both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.  The Steelers, who embarrassed the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium last week, travel to take on the Atlanta Falcons, still alive in the weak NFC South.  Meanwhile, the Ravens will host the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, maybe the worst team in the NFL.

Manziel has taken a lot of flack for his Hollywood demeanor and lack of production thus far in the NFL, but Sunday will be his first start, and he’s bound to give the Browns a boost over the struggling Brian Hoyer. Manziel is a threat to run and should benefit from a weak Bengals’ pass rush that will give the rookie extra time to work through his options.

It’s not at all out of the question that Browns will take down the Bengals, and seems almost certain that the Ravens will beat the Jags, so Baltimore could easily be sitting in first place by tomorrow night.   The Steelers are a better team than the Falcons, but Atlanta is at home fighting for a playoff spot, so the game should at least be competitive.

If the Steelers and Browns both win, though, Cincy will slide to third in the AFC North and will be just a half-game up on the Browns with two to play.

It’s going to be a tense three weeks on the Riverfront.