After Sunday's beat down of Chicago, the Bengals sit at 5-2 going into their bye week. First round pick Andre Smith looms almost like a mid-season acquisition. We know what we have without him, and as long as we view whatever he brings as a bonus, it could be a big deal. Really, the upgrade from Roland/Collins to Smith on the tackle eligible play alone is huge.
Anyways, this post isn't about HippapotaSmith. It's about how the Bengals can get to 11 wins. With last year being a very rare exception, 11 wins is enough to get you into the playoffs one way or another. The Steelers figure to sit at the 10-12 win range. The Ravens have already lost three, obviously, and both of those teams still have to play each other twice. Realistically, 11 wins gives the Bengals a decent shot at the AFC North crown.
From my view, anything less than 11 wins at this point would be a disappointment, and anything in single digits would be a failure. Take a look:
Split Next Two
A good team doesn't lose both of these games. The Baltimore game is the obvious "should win," but they need to take one of these next two to avoid falling to 5-4 and crushing all of their momentum coming out of the bye.
Win Next Three
These are three of the worst teams in the NFL. If you're going to the playoffs, you cannot be losing to teams of this caliber, especially at home. A split in the last two and three wins here gives the Bengals a 9-3 record going into the last quarter of the season.
Split Next Four
@ San Diego
vs. Kansas City
@ New York Jets
Obviously, the Chiefs game looks like another must win. With that in mind, the Bengals have to win one of the three road games in this set. If everyone keeps playing like they're playing now, the Bengals would likely be underdogs in all three. I'm certainly not eager to take on Adrian Peterson in any sort of must-win game. Still, a good team has to find a way to win at least one of those three games. A split in the last four, coupled with the games described above, puts the Bengals at 11-5.
It doesn't look hard. I'm not asking for them to be world beaters. Take care of the games you're supposed to take care of, and I'm essentially saying they have to win one game (out of four) in which they'd be slight underdogs. A good team does that. The hardest part of the season is over. Now the Bengals only have to do exactly what they should do. Anything less would be uncivilized.