It’s a win and you are in scenario for the Cincinnati Bengals. What a remarkable season filled with overachievement for Marvin Lewis’ 9-6 Bengals. In the preseason, it was conventional wisdom that they would be the worst team in the league. It was a rather safe prediction. Hey – it’s the Bengals! With the lockout and the short offseason, there would be no chance that the talented rookies AJ Green and Andy Dalton could dominate on the NFL level right away. It would have to take time, right? Then a funny thing happened. It all clicked for Dalton and Green in Jay Gruden’s offense. They played like savvy, battle-tested veterans. Defensive guru Mike Zimmer has this Bengals defense overachieving all season long. Despite newcomers and no-names, the Cincy defense has been elite. And since Cedric Benson returned from suspension, he’s given the Bengals a nice added element of balance on offense, keeping the Cincy defense fresh while controlling the clock.
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It’s a beautiful story. But the clock is about to strike midnight on this Cinderella story.
The Bengals are 0-3 when they go up in class in the AFC North, losing all three games this season to the Steelers and Ravens. Game No. 4 just happens to be this Sunday against Baltimore. Want more bad news for Cincy? The Ravens are playing for a division title, a coveted and needed first-round bye, and the possibility (albeit an outside one) of getting the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the playoffs.
Bag it, Bengals.
The knock on the Ravens this season has been they play down to the level of their competition. Baltimore lost in Jacksonville, Tennessee and Seattle. Cincy has been strong this year. Baltimore won’t overlook them. Heck, when the two clubs met in Baltimore earlier this season, it was a sticky game. In fact, I still think Jermaine Gresham caught a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. Now, please don’t misinterpret. I think this is going to be a great game and come down to the wire just like the last one. I just think Terrell Suggs and the Ravens defense will take over.
Talking to Zimmer on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday, he made a great point in saying that both teams know each other so well. Thus, it’s going to be super competitive. But assuming Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron remembers the offense runs through the dynamic Ray Rice, Baltimore will win. Rice will dominate.
Zimmer told us, “Rice is an exceptional back. He reminds me of Emmitt Smith with his toughness and vision. He’s built low to the ground. He lowers his shoulders and scoots through and he breaks tackles because he is so powerful.” As good and as overachieving as Zimmer has his defense, it is going to be tough to contain Rice.
Zimmer also made a good point about the mentality for the Bengals. They are going to try to keep it “loosey-goosey” this week. Zimmer thought, perhaps, maybe the pressure and/or the inexperience got to the team a bit at 6-2.
Cincy is very close to being a great team. If they can keep the band together, perhaps as soon as next year they will turn into an outfit like the Baltimore Ravens.