In their longest winning streak since the Super Bowl season of 1988, the Cincinnati Bengals have ran off five consecutive victories and stand atop the AFC North standings along with the Baltimore Ravens with a 6-2 record.
Trailing 17-7 at halftime at the Tennessee Titans last Sunday, the Bengals dominated the second stanza to the tune of 17-0 and walked out of Music City with a 24-17 victory. It’s amazing how this team has been able to pull out close win after close win this season.
The bad news is the schedule gets borderline brutal from this point, beginning with this Sunday’s home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (finally a sellout, thanks in large part to Steeler fans). The Steelers are slumming in third place of the AFC North with a 6-3 record. All right, they’re not slumming at all, but it’s just fun to say the Steelers are in third place.
However, if the Bengals want that to last, they will need to pull off an upset inside their own stadium (Pittsburgh is a 3.5-point favorite) against a team that will come in angry fresh off their last-minute defeat at the hands of the Ravens.
* Nice job by second-year DE Carlos Dunlap in stepping his play up the last few weeks. He had two sacks against the Titans when he was dominant for much of the afternoon, and now has three sacks on the season. He had 9.5 last year and reaching double-digits is certainly an attainable goal this season if he stays healthy. Remember, all of his sacks last season came in the final eight games of the year.
* Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are going to tear up the NFL for the next decade. And their attitudes are so refreshing that it’s stunning. Has anyone ever seen a pair of rookies so poised and confident, yet not one bit cocky or arrogant? Me neither.
* Never been a Marvin Lewis fan – well, other than early in his Bengal career when I briefly jumped on the bandwagon – but he’s proving me wrong this season. For the first time in ages, I can actually say the Bengals are a “well-coached football team.” It helps having a pair of excellent coordinators in Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, but Lewis gets plenty of credit too. Kudos to you, Marv. And to think he was an eyelash away from no longer being the Bengals’ coach in the aftermath of the disappointing 4-12 2010 season. However, in 2009, the Bengals were AFC North champions (when they swept the division 6-0) and Lewis was actually named NFL Coach of the Year. He also has the 2005 AFC North title under his belt during his tenure in Cincinnati.
* Hopefully middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (ankle) and tight end Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) will be able to play this Sunday because the Bengals will certainly need all hands on deck against the hated Steelers. Cornerback/punt returner Pacman Jones is also nursing a pulled hammy.