Well, the Bengals didn't bungal away their shot at the playoffs this year and beat the dreaded Steelers last week.
This week the Bengals aren't really playing for a whole lot since their opponent, The Ravens, already have the AFC North wrapped up. The Bengals are locked in to the sixth seed.
But the Bengals sure could use some momentum going in to the playoffs. The other three times the Bengals have gone in with a whimper, getting killed at Kansas City in 2005 and in New York in 2009. Last year the Ravens held the Bengals in check in the season finale.
It's no coincidence that the Bengals lost all their playoff games in the first round in those three seasons. This year the Bengals are actually on a hot streak, going 6-1.
Unlike those previous years where the Bengals were limping into the playoffs (in '05 the Bengals offense was great - until Carson Palmer blew his knee out on his second pass of the game - but their defense was terrible. In '09 the offense was in hibernation and their defense finished in the top five, but they were not playing their best at the end of the season. In '11 the defense, which again was a top ten unit, was not playing their best at the end of the year either.
This year, though, the defense is playing lights out. Their offense is still streaky, but their defense is playing as well as any defense they've fielded in the past 20 years.
Their offense just has to make some plays to get a lead or keep it close. Dalton can't turn the ball over. Or take field position killing sacks in the red zone. If they can get The Law Firm rolling and hit a deep ball or two to AJ Green or Andrew Hawkins and keep drives alive with some throws to Jermaine Gresham, they will have a shot against anyone.
If their defense can actually generate some turnovers, they will be just fine. But while they can rush the passer against anyone (their defensive line is among the absolute best in the league), their secondary doesn't come up with a lot of picks.
If that changes, and the Bengals can win the turnover game, they can move beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since I was a junior in high school!
Regardless, I can't help but peak ahead to the 2013 draft. Thanks to the Bengals fleecing the Raiders in the Carson Palmer trade, the Bengals will have the Raiders' second round pick, which will be the third or fourth pick in the second round. That gives them four picks in the first three rounds. Here is what I'm tentatively hoping for -
First round - Alec Ogletree LB Georgia (the Bengals love Georgia Bulldogs. I'm not a huge fan of our middle line backer right not, Ray Malaluaga, and our leading tackler, Vontez Burfict, has been playing out of position all year at OLB. So they could move Burfict inside and let Malaluaga go in free agency. Then they could put Ogletree at OLB and let him make plays all over the field).
Second round - A. Cordarelle Patterson WR Tennessee (Since Mohamad Sanu went down with a broken foot, the Bengals have not had a reliable #2 target. Sanu can be that next year, but the Bengals sure could use another big play target opposite of AJ Green. Patterson would be great in that role. Plus, the Bengals have had great luck with Tennessee receivers, namely Tim McGhee and Carl Pickens).
B. Kenjon Barner RB Oregon (The Law Firm hit a thousand yards this year, but he is not explosive at all. The Law Firm can continue to get the bulk of the carries, but Jay Gruden wants to add a playmaker to the backfield and Barner is just that.)
Third round - maybe another receiver or perhaps a safety.