Well, so much for having to deal with playing at New England in the first round of the NFL playoffs.
And no one is saying playing at Houston is easy — the Bengals know that as well as anyone after getting waxed by the Texans in the opening round of the 2011 postseason. However, the Patriots are a better team in my opinion and I think it’s a good thing for the Bengals that they’ll get a chance at revenge over the Texans instead of facing off against the three-time Super Bowl champion Pats.
Everything fell into place perfectly for Cincinnati on Sunday. First, Houston lost to Indianapolis. Then, Denver and New England each won, and they each moved past the Texans — which is a huge deal considering the top-two seeds get first-round byes. The Broncos are the No. 1 seed and the Patriots are the No. 2. So, if the Bengals beat the third-seeded Texans, they will play at Denver in the AFC semifinals.
The other two AFC playoff teams are fourth-seeded Baltimore and fifth-seeded Indianapolis who will play in the first round. Speaking of the Ravens, the Bengals beat them 23-17 in a game with a preseason feel on Sunday as both teams rested starters for much of the way. Cincinnati finishes the regular season with a 10-6 record and goes into the playoffs with a mountain of momentum as Marvin Lewis’ crew have won seven of their last eight games. I’m sure when the Bengals were sitting at 3-5 we were all expecting they’d finish 10-6. Nope.
The good news continued for the Bengals on Sunday as the Oakland Raiders lost, capping their season at 4-12. That ties for the third-worst record in the NFL with the Eagles and Lions, meaning the second-round pick the Raiders owe the Bengals in the 2013 draft will be somewhere in the range of No. 35-37 overall. That’s basically like a late first-round pick. It’s still amazing the Bengals were able to get a first-round pick (which turned out to be cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick) and an early-second in exchange for Carson Palmer. Thanks, Oaktown.
Still no word on exactly when the Bengals will play either Saturday or Sunday, but that news will be coming down the pike soon. Can the Bengals get the first playoff win of the Lewis era? They’ll be underdogs and rightfully so, but there’s no question they’d rather be playing Houston than New England. And not just because of the revenge factor.
UPDATE (10:32 p.m.): The Bengals and Texans will literally kick-off the NFL playoffs once again this season. They have the first game of the postseason as the two teams are slated to face off in Houston at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday.