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NFL Playoff Picture: Cincinnati Bengals Have the Toughest Path to the Super Bowl

December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) on the field before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Chris TrapassoAnalyst IDecember 28, 2012

When glancing—more like staring and analyzing—at the current NFL postseason picture, the Cincinnati Bengals have the most arduous path to the Super Bowl in New Orleans

Oftentimes, we get immersed in home-field advantage and bye weeks when it comes to the NFL playoffs. Let's look at why the Bengals truly have it so rough.

After all, last year's New York Giants snuck into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season and won it all. 

The 2010-2011 Green Bay Packers made the postseason as the final Wild Card, won three road games, then beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to claim their first Super Bowl since 1996. 

As the No. 6 seed in the AFC, Cincinnati is penciled in to take a trip to Foxborough to face the New England Patriots in the opening round of the playoffs. 

Now, in 2009 and 2010, Brady and Co. did lose at home on Wild Card Weekend to teams with rather stingy defenses and far-from-elite quarterbacks. 

But they seemingly learned from their season-ending blunders, thoroughly beating down the Denver Broncos before mounting a fourth-quarter comeback in the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens

Sure, the Patriots weren't totally in sync against John Harbaugh's club and were a defended pass away from losing, but one has to believe they'd be ready for the Bengals in Round 1. 

The 2012 Pats are much more offensively efficient and employ a much speedier attack than they did a year ago.

Even if the Bengals squeeze by New England, a trip to face the Houston Texans would be in store—the same team that beat Cincinnati in convincing fashion in last season's playoffs. 

J.J. Watt and his defensive linemates would make it difficult for Andy Dalton to find A.J. Green down the field and the run-heavy, play-action Houston offense would be a formidable task for Mike Zimmer's defense. 

At that point, there's a bunch of scenarios that could unfold to create the AFC championship matchup, but facing Peyton Manning and the streaking Denver Broncos certainly wouldn't be inviting. 

The Bengals are a sleeper in their wild-card spot, but they surely have a tough road to the Super Bowl. 

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