Finding No. 2
No one in the NFL can live comfortably, and the Bengals surely can’t breathe easy even amid a fantastic four-game string.
Cincinnati’s main offensive concern currently lies in the passing game. While Dalton is putting to rest all notions of a sophomore slump, the Bengals are in search of a stable No. 2 receiver to go with out-of-this-world wideout A.J. Green.
Mohamed Sanu, a talented Rutgers product, was a rookie on the rise until a broken foot sidelined him for the season last week.
That means Dalton will target Andrew Hawkins, Brandon Tate and Marvin Jones with more frequency. Ryan Whalen and Armon Binns will likely see some action as well.
Hawkins is probably the best No. 2 option. He has battled a knee injury, but the 5-foot-7, 180-pound quick receiver has amassed 39 catches.
7-5, more than alive
It’s difficult to imagine a team losing to the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns in back-to-back weeks only to rebound and go on a Super Bowl run.
However, at 7-5, the Bengals are hoping to follow in the footsteps of the 2011 New York Giants or 2005 Steelers or 2001 Patriots, all of which had records of 7-5 or worse through 12 weeks of the season.
Then again, baby steps are probably the best way to approach it at this point. The Bengals are zoned in on the 6-6 Cowboys at the moment.
Catching Colts, Steelers
The Bengals are like a group of kids on a sidewalk peeking through the big window of a pet shop, fixated upon a vivacious puppy frolicking about inside.
Just how much is that doggie in the window?
Well, it could cost four more wins.
Six teams get in the playoffs, and the Bengals are right now No. 7 in the AFC.
The Ravens are inching closer to locking up the AFC North, even though it’s not a done deal by any means. They’re just two games ahead of the Steelers and Bengals.
Nonetheless, one of the two wild card spots are essentially what the Bengals are gunning for.
To examine Who Dey Nation’s chance at a second straight playoff appearance — it’d be the first such occurrence since 1981-82 — one must first take a gander at those in the driver’s seat.
The Colts (8-4) are nestling deeper and deeper into that No. 5 position. Their remaining games: Dec. 9 vs. Titans (4-8); Dec. 16 at Texans (11-1); Dec. 23 at Chiefs (2-10); Dec. 30 vs. Texans (11-1).
The Steelers (7-5) control their own destiny. A 4-0 finish and they’re in. Their last four contests: Dec. 9 vs. Chargers (4-8); Dec. 16 at Cowboys (6-6); Dec. 23 vs. Bengals (7-5); Dec. 30 vs. Browns (4-8).
The Bengals also control their own destiny. Who knows? It may just come down to those final two weeks, with a Week 16 showdown at Pittsburgh and a Week 17 home date with Baltimore. Before that: Dec. 9 vs. Cowboys (6-6); Dec. 13 at Eagles (3-9).
Considering the 3-5 record staring directly back at them just last month, the Bengals are elated to be in this position.
It all started with the decision by Lewis to go public with a challenge. As it turned out, the captains righted the ship.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.