The victory marks the third straight win for the Bengals, all three of which came by a margin of at least 18 points.
Since the bye week, the Bengals coaching staff has made numerous adjustments to schemes and personnel that have once again made the team a formidable opponent. This has opened the door for the 6-5 Bengals to potentially claim a consecutive playoff birth this season.
Are the Bengals capable of consistently keeping up this kind of performance each week?
Earlier in the season, the Bengals were winning in shootouts while the defense could not get things together. They then dropped four straight games from Week 5 through Week 9. Some of these contests turned out to be let-down games for Cincinnati as they were the better squad coming into the game.
So which Bengals team will we see for the rest of the season? Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin and produce a final verdict as to whether or not the Cincinnati Bengals are indeed a playoff team.
The Bengals Have a Hot Hand and Are a Playoff Team
In the National Football League, it’s all about which team gets hot at the right time. We have all seen it time and time again. The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers are two key examples. In recent years both teams caught fire at the end of the season to barely make the playoffs and ended up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Right now, Cincinnati is one of the hottest teams in the NFL. It has won its last three games by a margin of at least 18 points. That’s not just winning—that is dominating.
Any time a team can put up big offensive numbers and its defense can limit teams to fewer than 13 points in three consecutive games, you have a recipe for playoff contention.
The beautiful thing about the Bengals' wins of late has been how clean they have been. Cincinnati has not been turning the ball over lately and has been able to take advantage of opponents' miscues.
The Bengals have also greatly improved upon their red-zone numbers at this point in the season. As a result, it is leading to more points on the board than they have seen all season.
Going forward, the Bengals have a favorable schedule as three of their remaining five opponents currently have losing records. The Bengals are very capable of stringing together some more wins in this stretch of games and finding themselves in the playoffs yet again.
The Bengals Are Still Only the Third Best Team in Their Division
One knock on the Cincinnati Bengals has been their inability to defeat teams with winning records.
Last season, the Bengals' wins came solely from teams that were struggling. Their strength of schedule was one of the weakest in the NFL. This allowed the Bengals to finish 9-7 and make the playoffs.
However, in Andy Dalton’s young career, he has yet to beat his divisional rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, or the Baltimore Ravens. Dalton was 0-4 against these teams last season and is currently 0-2 against them in 2012.
If the Bengals can not find a way to produce wins against either of these teams, they may not be in very good shape come season's end where they finish 2012 at Pittsburgh and then against Baltimore.
Yes, the Bengals finally beat a team with a winning record this season when they assaulted the Giants to a tune of a 31-13 victory in Cincinnati, but the club needs to prove that it can do this on a consistent basis.
Even if the Bengals are to sweep their next three games at San Diego, vs. Dallas and at Philadelphia, their season could still certainly come down to winning one or both games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore to make the playoffs.
What weighs heavily here is the fact that Cincinnati has turned its team around at the right time. Sure, it had some tough losses in the beginning of the season, but it has rebounded quite nicely.
It says a lot about a team’s character when it refuses to lie down after some difficult defeats.
Currently, Cincinnati is tied with Pittsburgh for the final AFC wild-card spot. With the Steelers struggling at the moment and no other AFC team making a move from behind the Bengals, it certainly bodes well for Cincinnati to claim a playoff birth yet again.
The way things look right now, the Cincinnati Bengals are playoff bound.