Ravens clean out their lockers
In recent seasons, the Ravens have flourished in the playoffs, while the Bengals have flopped. This season, the Bengals have a golden opportunity. The Ravens are done, while the Bengals are preparing to host the Chargers in a Sunday wild card playoff matchup.
Sunday will be a key moment for Cincinnati’s franchise. The Bengals have not won a playoff game since 1990. Coach Marvin Lewis’ career playoff record is 0-4. By defeating the Chargers, Lewis can finally rid himself of that playoff albatross, and the Bengals could be a dangerous team moving forward. It would also be an important victory for quarterback Andy Dalton, who still runs hot and cold. The Bengals defeated the Ravens last weekend, but Dalton threw four interceptions. Not the kind of performance that answers questions about Dalton heading into the playoffs.
Clearly, the Bengals have become the team to beat in the AFC North. They have the division’s most talented roster, and it’s young. Consider all these Bengals that are 26 years old or younger – Dalton, wide receivers A. J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, running back Gionvani Bernard, tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, and injured defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The Bengals should be good for some time. That is a problem for the Ravens, Steelers, and Browns, who are trying to close the talent gap in the division.
However, it is difficult to take the Bengals seriously as a Super Bowl contender until they conquer their playoff demons. Imagine how much flak the Bengals will take if they lose at home Sunday, after going 8-0 at home during the regular season. Are the Bengals a team to be reckoned with over the next few seasons? They should be. But are the Bengals ready to make a playoff run like the Ravens did last season? We will learn more about that on Sunday.