In case you are living under a rock, let me state the obvious: Sunday’s game is huge. Not your typical “big game” huge. Assuming there’s no apocalypse on Friday, Sunday’s tilt in Pittsburgh becomes the equivalent of a large meteor hurling towards the earth.
That meteor’s name is Ben Roethlisberger, and the Bengals are Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and crew.
If the Bengals defeat the Steelers at Heinz Field, they not only punch their own ticket for the playoffs, but they also officially eliminate the Steelers from postseason contention-in front of their vocal, towel-waving fans. What a beautiful sight that would be!
If the Steelers win, the Bengals make the playoffs if the Steelers lose in week 17 to the Browns at home and the Bengals beat the Ravens in Cincinnati. There are still scenarios for the Dolphins, but the Bengals have to lose both remaining games for that, and lets face it-if the Bengals can’t win either of these games they don’t deserve the berth in the first place.
Now, if the Bengals beat the Steelers, and the Giants beat the Ravens in a battle of reeling teams, then the week 17 match-up in Cincinnati is for the AFC North crown.
Looking at the current scenarios, if the Bengals were to lose that game (or otherwise earn the sixth seed) they will play at New England; a tough match. If the Bengals win the North, they will get the 4th seed, and host a home playoff game against the Colts: a much better draw.
But first things first: The Bengals must beat Pittsburgh.
This will be tough, and virtually every talking head is picking Pittsburgh based on the fact that they are at home, they’ve dominated the series as of late, and well, they’re the Steelers. This premise presumes that the Steelers will simply “out tough” the Bengals, or perform better in the clutch, or get the calls from the zebras (or some combination thereof). Based on history, I cannot discount this.
However, here are a few reasons for optimism:
The Bengals have won 5 of their last 6 games. The Steelers, meanwhile, have lost 4 of their last five.
Pittsburgh most recent home game was a 34-24 loss to the Chargers, whom the Bengals defeated in San Diego the previous week.
Turnovers decide games. The Steelers have a minus-14 turnover differential right now. The Bengals are plus-3.
Pittsburgh’s top corner back, Ike Taylor, has been ruled out, forcing back-up DB Cortez Allen to draw coverage against Bengals pro bowler A.J. Green. Allen himself is still recovering from a hip flexor injury that forced him out earlier this year.
The Bengals are 4-point underdogs. Every fan knows the Bengals play better as dogs.
The Bengals are 5-2 on the road this season.
And perhaps the least scientific reason: After 5 consecutive losses to Pittsburgh, the Bengals are simply due. How many losses in a row can we sustain before we simply play better, and get more breaks than the other guy?
Think positively Who Dey Nation!