If they weren't already, the Cincinnati Bengals have established themselves as playoff contenders.
The Bengals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 34-13 on Thursday Night Football, as their defense forced five Philly turnovers.
Now, you may be thinking, "Big whoop. My cousin's Pop Warner team could beat the Eagles."
But there was more to this game than meets the eye.
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has emerged as one of the best backs in football, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career.
Green-Ellis has at least 100 rushing yards in four out of his last five games and has found the end zone six times this season.
The fifth-year RB took a lot of pressure off Andy Dalton, who was consistently under duress Thursday night.
Dalton was sacked six times, completed less than 50 percent of his passes and even lost two fumbles, yet Cincinnati earned a 21-point win. The team can thank Green-Ellis, who rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
We all know A.J. Green has been sensational this season—his 11 receiving touchdowns lead the NFL—but the Bengals defense has been really impressive.
Ranked No. 10 against the pass and No. 9 against the run, Cincinnati has allowed 20 points or more to an opponent just once in its past six games.
The Bengals defense leads the NFL in sacks (43) and has 26 takeaways, which ranks fourth in the AFC.
Facing an Eagles' running back who had rushed for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns in two of his past three games, the Bengals held Bryce Brown to a mere 34 yards and 2.1 yards-per-carry average.
Whether you believe the Bengals forced the turnovers or Philly gave the game away, the fact is that Cincinnati's defense is what's going to lead the team to a playoff berth.
The Bengals currently hold the sixth seed in the postseason. With divisional games left against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati still has a chance to win the AFC North and get a more favorable matchup come playoff time.
With offensive weapons like Green and Green-Ellis and a stingy defense led by Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and rookie Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals have proved their worth as playoff contenders.
Follow me on Twitter: Follow @Pete_Schauer