And here Bengals sit as the number two seed in the AFC behind the supernatural New England Patriots.
Last week Cincy upped their best ever start to a season to 8-0 with a thrashing of their most bitter rival, the Browns, 31-10.
So far some things are starting to become a theme for the Bengals.
First, early in games (often on the first drive . . . against Cleveland it happened on the Browns' second offensive drive) Cincy's defense gives up a long scoring drive. This was the case against Seattle, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, before settling in and doing a solid job of dominating the rest of the game. In the fourth quarter (and in OT) against Seattle, the Cincy defense shut them out. The Bengals shut the Steelers out in the fourth too. They did give up a garbage touchdown late to Buffalo, but they then held the Browns scoreless in the second half last week.
Second, offensively, Cincy has been lethal on their opening possessions. They have scored touchdowns on their first drives in 5 of their 8 games. Against Pittsburgh, they came away with a field goal and against San Diego, Cincy recovered a muffed punt and scored on their second possession. The only team that caused them to punt on their first couple drives were the Bills. This is a good thing. Start strong and then let your defense keep that lead.
Now the Houston Texans come to town for Monday Night Football. This has the hallmarks of what should be a Cincy blowout. But you never, ever know. The Texans sit at 3-5, but they aren't out of the chase for the AFC South title thanks to ever single team in that division being bad. So they have a lot to play for. Plus, they have JJ Watt, who can absolutely wreck offensive schemes.
But for all of their injuries last year and sketchy play from Andy Dalton, Cincy rolled into Houston and came away with a win. So who knows what will happen this year?
Hopefully, Cincy can up their record to 9-0 before traveling out to the desert to face the Cardinals and some quarterback by the name of Carson Palmer in their third consecutive Prime Time football match up.
With the Pats looking more and more like they will finish 16-0 or at worst 15-1, the Bengals have to get every single win they possibly can to try and lock up that second playoff seed (and a bye week) in the AFC. This is doubly important now that the Broncos have finally lost and the fact that Cincy travels to Denver for their final Prime Time game of the season. If they lose to Denver and drop a couple other games, they could be locked in the dreaded third seed in the AFC.