Bengals have nothing at stake in final game

With their playoff seeding locked in place, the Bengals have the

option of taking it easy with some of their players in the final

regular-season game.

They’ve done it before, and it hasn’t turned out so well.

The Bengals (9-6) haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, going

0-3 in the postseason under coach Marvin Lewis. He wouldn’t talk in

any detail Monday about his plans for their concluding game against

Baltimore at Paul Brown Stadium, other than to say he’s learned

from those playoff losses.

In 2009, Cincinnati had clinched the AFC North title before the

final game on the road against the Jets. He rested starters during

a 37-0 loss to New York. One week later, the Jets came to

Cincinnati and won 24-14.

The starters were rested, but their momentum was gone.

”How’d that work out for us?” Lewis said on Monday. ”I don’t

really have any beat-up guys. So, the only thing that is at stake

is you go out and play to win the game every time we go. That’s


A 13-10 victory in Pittsburgh on Sunday clinched the final AFC

wild-card spot. Baltimore (10-5) won the AFC North later in the day

by beating the Giants.

The Bengals are locked in as the sixth seed, so they’ll be on

the road for every game in the playoffs. Their destination will be

decided by how the final weekend plays out.

The Patriots currently are the No. 3 seed, which would put the

Bengals in line for a first-round game at New England. If the

Ravens beat the Bengals on Sunday and New England loses at home to

Miami, Baltimore would move into the third seed and host Cincinnati

in the first round.

There’s also a chance the Bengals could open at Houston – where

they lost 31-10 in a first-round game last season – or at Denver.

The Broncos beat the Bengals 31-23 at Paul Brown Stadium on Nov.


There are so many possibilities that the Bengals aren’t paying

much attention. Lewis is trying to get them focused on something

else this week: evening up things with the rival that made them

look bad at the start of the season.

The Bengals opened in Baltimore on Monday night and lost 44-13,

one of the worst season-opening drubbings in franchise history.

”We didn’t kick the season off very good, and now we get to

finish it at home,” Lewis said. ”We don’t know who we will play

(in the playoffs) or where. We just have to take it on ourselves.

More in focus, though, is the Baltimore Ravens. They are a good

team that just won our division and a team that beat the snot out

of us in the first game.”

The Bengals finish at home against the Ravens for the second

straight season. Last year, Baltimore came to town and clinched its

first division title since 2006 with a 24-16 victory. The Bengals

got a wild card when the Jets and Broncos also lost their final


It’s only the second time in franchise history the Bengals are

going to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. They also did it in

1981 – when they reached their first Super Bowl – and in the

strike-shortened 1982 season.

The win at Pittsburgh on Sunday had special significance.

Cincinnati hadn’t beaten the Ravens or Steelers in the last two

seasons, going 0-6 against its biggest rivals.

”That’s a huge win for us because people were doubting us,”

defensive tackle Domata Peko said on Monday.

Even though the Bengals can’t improve their playoff position,

they can add to their momentum. Last season, dropped three of their

last five games, then lost to Houston in the first round.

The win in Pittsburgh was Cincinnati’s sixth in the last seven

games. Although the offense has struggled lately, the defense has

held opponents to 13 or fewer points six times during that

seven-game stretch.

”In December last year, we were kind of (leveled) off a little

bit,” Peko said. ”This year we started slower, but now we’re

starting to take off. Those are the teams that are dangerous.”

Notes: Lewis said the Bengals emerged from the game in

Pittsburgh with no significant injuries. … The Ravens game hasn’t

sold out. The Bengals have failed to sell out two of their last

three games, which were blacked out on local television. Last

season, they did a buy-one, get-one-free ticket promotion to get

the final game against the Ravens sold out.

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