The Cincinnati Bengals were not only supposed to be a playoff contender this season, they were supposed to be one of the premier powers in the AFC.
However, after a 3-5 start, doubts began to creep up about this team—particularly concerning the defense, which was supposed to be an up-and-coming unit.
The Bengals have gone 5-1 since that stretch and haven't allowed more than 20 points to any opponent in the last six games. All of a sudden, this defense is looking solid and the offense is coming along, too.
The Bengals thrashed the helpless Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, 34-13. It was just the kind of thrashing you would expect from a playoff hopeful. Cincinnati stymied the Eagles offense, while the running game—which was once inept—continued to roll.
After an ugly early stretch, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is back to being the playmaker he was with the New England Patriots in 2011. He's posted four 100-yard games in his last five contests. In the one game he didn't rush for 100 yards (against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14), he still managed 89 yards on 12 carries.
What once appeared to be a hopeless season has turned into a possible trip to the playoffs. Even if the Pittsburgh Steelers win this week against the Cowboys, the Bengals can overtake them for a wild-card spot by beating them in Week 16.
A lot of credit has to go to the coaching staff for pulling this team together, as well as the players for never giving up and believing a playoff berth was still possible.
The key down the stretch will inevitably be defense, as this offense generally can't score a lot of points against tougher defenses, but who's to say the defense will let the Bengals down? This unit continues to prove it has grown by leaps and bounds.
Get ready for a showdown at Heinz Field in Week 16.