You can call it a "mulligan" or say it didn't matter because the entire AFC North lost too but the fact is it does matter.
Because you know who didn't lose? The Patriots and Chargers. Lest we forget, after last week's win the Bengals odds of making the playoffs was estimated around 97%. Also, they had the inside track for the 2nd seed and a first round bye.
Well now we have the same record as both the Patriots and Chargers. We have to play at San Diego, where they have the advantage, and a loss would give them the tiebreak should it matter for the 2nd seed (and it could easily matter). The Patriots, in my opinion, still remain the odds on Super Bowl favorite despite some tough games left.
That's why this loss matters.
Call me ungrateful and say that I should be happy with 7-3 regardless. Well, f that. I don't care if we were a little fortunate to be in this position in the first place and the season has gone better than any of us hoped. That fact is we were in great position with a gimme opportunity to all but put the rest of the division away and keep the 2 seed well within our reach. And we let it go.
And just like we failed to put Oakland away time after time and that cost us the game, failing to capitalize on easy games like this may cost us at least the 2 seed and maybe worse. The goal is to win the Super Bowl and making the road to the Super Bowl as favorable as possible matters. For example, I don't know about you but I certainly don't want to see the Steelers again in the wild card round. Taking care of business would have made that scenario much more unlikely.
Now look, the sky is not falling. We will be fine. Maybe it lights a fire and keeps us motivated the rest of the way. And I'm talking about future playoff positioning already when we haven't yet clinched a spot.
But while some are shrugging off this loss I will continue to hold the team to higher standards. The Colts, Patriots, and Steelers of the world certainly hold themselves to these standards and it's time we as fans did too.