The Cincinnati Bengals emerge from their bye week at 3-4.
With a schedule that will become tougher with every passing week, righting the ship is going to be tough.
Andy Dalton and his teammates are trying to escape the sophomore slump, and they will need to produce something special to do that now.
Let's look at the second half of the Bengals' 2012 season.
Week 9 - Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos travel to Cincinnati this Sunday. The Bengals are in desperate need of a win in this one and need to engineer some post-bye week momentum.
The Broncos are red hot right now, and Peyton Manning has the offense running like a finely oiled machine. Atop the AFC West, the Broncos are serious post-season contenders, and they will be expecting to dispatch the Bengals on Sunday.
The Bengals secondary made Brandon Weeden look like a star, and with Peyton Manning heading to town, there isn't much hope.
Week 10 - New York Giants
The other Manning and his Super Bowl Champion New York Giants will take to PBS in Week 10. It's hard to see this being too much of a challenge for Eli. Peyton will carve up the Bengals secondary in Week 9, and Eli will do much of the same in Week 10.
Andy Dalton will do his best to put up points in the same fashion, but we might be asking too much of him. The Bengals receiving core is still young and many of them are in their rookie year.
It's going to take time, and the Giants will not give the Bengals much room for error.
Week 11 - @ Kansas City Chiefs
At last, a reprieve. The Bengals go on the road in Week 11 to take on a Chiefs team wondering where their supposed dream-season went. The Bengals could well be 3-6 at this point, and that will mean that - like in the college game - one loss and it's likely to be all over.
The Bengals will relish a more even contest in Week 11 and should get it done. Andy Dalton and the offense can and should put up more points than Matt Cassel.
Week 12 - Oakland Raiders
Expect a chorus of boo's when Carson Palmer returns to Cincy in Week 12. Bengals fans may be drinking Andy Dalton's kool-aid but the wounds from Palmer's desertion are still fresh.
The Bengals have more than enough knowledge of Palmer's game, and with Hue Jackson in the fold, they will be more than prepared for this game.
Week 13 - @San Diego Chargers
The Bengals and the Chargers always put on a good show, and that'll remain the case in Week 13.
At the time of writing the Chargers are 3-4 after an embarrassing 7-6 defeat at the hands of the Browns. The Bengals may have dropped one to Weeden & Co. but they didn't exhibit the level of futility that the Bolts did last week.
I'm banking on Cincy turning the ship around and finding consistency by this point in the year. Sorry Norv.
Week 14 - Dallas Cowboys
It would be fair to suggest that they might look past the Bengals somewhat with such a tough schedule on either side of them.
The Cowboys should win, but this looks like it could be their trap game.
This could be a crucial game for the Bengals and with momentum on their side - if my predictions hold true - I can see them pulling off a big upset here.
Week 15 - @Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles and Andy Reid are well and truly in win-now mode, despite having a record that matches many others. The Eagles have suffered the brunt of media criticism, fairly or not, and they need to fix it fast.
Mike Vick has the uncanny ability of being the worst QB in the league one week, and a total revelation the next. Expect the latter in Week 15.
Despite having not much to play for in the second half of 2011, the Eagles got better and better as the year went on.
They can still make the playoffs right now, and with a home game against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football, expect them to make the most of the occasion.
Week 16 - @Pittsburgh Steelers
Heinz Field has never been a particularly fun venue for the Bengals.
Big Ben and the Steelers may be getting older, but they have already proved once this year that they can still comfortably beat the Bengals.
The Bengals couldn't stop the Steelers on the ground or through the air in their first meeting this year.
The Steelers may be getting older and having injury issues, but the Bengals are having serious teething problems.
I expected the Bengals to get a win over Pittsburgh in 2012...just not at Heinz Field.
Week 17 - Baltimore Ravens
Sixteen weeks later and these two meet again. This time in Cincinnati.
Andy Dalton will be one game away from the end of his sophomore year, and if things play out the way I have predicted, a playoff spot may be just out of reach.
With nothing to play for, the Bengals can take the role of spoiler, and cost the Ravens home field advantage in the playoffs.
I expect the Bengals to rise to the occasion and pull off what they couldn't in the season finale last year.
It may be the last time we see Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden and Marvin Lewis together and I fully expect them to pull off a huge upset here and end on a high, playoffs or not.
Final Record: 8-8
As I draw this conclusion I can already feel the torrent of abuse headed in my direction.
However, given the Bengals' performance to this point and their extremely tough schedule it is perhaps the most realistic outcome.
But where do they go from here?
Will Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer head for greener pastures?
Will Marvin Lewis get fired?
How do they approach the draft?
In some ways, 8-8 is worse than 0-16. At 8-8 you don't have a clear indication whether an overhaul is needed or whether you just had a bad year.
This next offseason already looks like it will be a very unpredictable one for the Cincinnati Bengals.