At 5-0, the Cincinnati Bengals have been without question one of the best teams in the NFL this season. In fact, you could make an argument – and a compelling one at that – that they’ve been the best team in the NFL this season.
But can we take them seriously? After all, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, and Marvin Lewis’ 0-7 playoff record leaves much to be desired.
So regardless of what happens in the regular season, can we look at Cincinnati any differently before January?
“I will. I think they’re damn good,” CBSSports.com NFL analyst Pete Prisco said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “And let’s go back to those four playoff losses. First one, on the road, Andy Dalton is a rookie, not supposed to win that one. Second one, on the road at Houston, probably not supposed to win that one, either. The third one, they choke. That’s the choke job right there. San Diego at home, you’re supposed to win that game. And then last year at Indy, you’re playing without (Jermaine) Gresham, without (A.J.) Green, without (Marvin) Jones, without (Tyler) Eifert. None of those guys were in the game. You’re not going to win that game, either. So really, there’s been one choke job in the postseason – and that’s the San Diego game.
“This team is different,” Prisco continued. “This team might have the best combination of offensive and defensive lines in the league. Dalton is getting the ball out of his hands. He’s so much more confident in what he’s seeing and what he’s doing – particularly pre-snap – and he’s got a ton of weapons. So I think this is a good Bengals team. They got to be careful this week at Buffalo. Even if E.J. Manuel is in the game, a natural letdown on the road after a big win against Seattle (is possible) and you’re going into a place that’s tough to play against a can-be-dominant defensive front. That could be a problem for them this week.”
Damon Amendolara was stunned by this response. He was stunned that Prisco didn’t tear into the Bengals for losing four playoff games in four years.
“Yeah, but when you’re on the road in the playoffs, come on – you’re not supposed to win on the road in the postseason,” Prisco said. “It happens, but you’re not supposed to win. If a team loses at home in the postseason, they’re the gaggers.”
But Marvin Lewis is 0-3 at home in the playoffs!
“But one was when Carson Palmer tore his knee up,” Prisco said. “They were going to win that game. The Jets one and the Chargers ones are two big ones. But if Palmer (doesn’t) tear his knee up, they win that game. I don’t care what anybody says. They beat the Steelers that day. And then the San Diego one was a bad loss. So yeah, 1-2 at home. He’s 0-3 at home, but the one with Carson Palmer, you can’t fault him for that one.”
But Lewis hasn’t won a playoff game in 12 years with the Bengals!
“Sometimes you got to look at circumstances,” Prisco said. “The last four ones, aside form San diego, which one was he supposed to win? You’re on the road in the playoffs.”
But 12 years is a huge sample size! The Bengals have had good regular seasons, sure, but they do stupid stuff every postseason. Repeatedly.
Are we going to see that again this January?
“If you’re playing at home and have your weapons, you’re probably not going to see the same stupid stuff,” Prisco said. “They’re a good football team. And hey, I’ve been one of those guys that’s picked them the last couple of years to be really good and this year I thought, ‘I’m not so sure about them.’ And I think I’ve undersold them. You’re harsh on that playoff stuff. Tim Tebow won a playoff game and no one thinks he’s any good.”