Before the beginning of the NFL season, a large segment of the football population didn’t expect much from the Cincinnati Bengals. They hadn’t made the playoffs since 2005, and really haven’t been worth a damn since. Last season, the wheels completely came off, so expectations were even lower. Granted, that can be attributed to injuries, trouble-makers, rabble-rousers, and the overall morale of the organization being in the dumpster. So when HBO took Hard Knocks down to Cincinnati Bengals training camp, my expectations still weren’t too high. Ed even made a trip down there, and while he enjoyed the practice, he didn’t come back to me reporting a championship-caliber team. He did say they could be good, but that was about it. On top of that, when Chad Ochocinco predicted 12-4, there wasn’t much else to say, except to dismiss it as a shock-value statement. It’s never been a question of talent for the Bengals; it’s just that…well, they’re the Bengals, and they usually suck.
Now I’m not going to sit here and jump on their bandwagon, because (1) I’m a Cowboys fan, and (2) it would be a disservice to the two real Cincinnati Bengals fans I know: Terrence Hall and Philip Colston. I’m not saying there aren’t others, but those two were screaming “Who Dey” when they weren’t worth two cents. What I will say is they deserved to get everyone’s respect well before Sunday’s sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The lack of respect for the Bengals by the general viewing public, as well as talking heads on television, has been on full display all season long. Despite the fact they were 5-2 at their bye week, and did so by beating Green Bay (a winning team), Pittsburgh at home (defending champs, division rival, and winning team), Cleveland (on the road, and a division rival) Baltimore (on the road, division rival, and winning team), and Chicago (never mind; they suck), people still didn’t give them full credit. All that didn’t seem to matter. They would beat who was in front of them, and when someone would ask if the Bengals were for real, the naysayers would say “we’ll see after they play Baltimore again.” They beat Baltimore like a drum, and when people ask if they’re for real (again), folks say “we’ll see after they play the Steelers again.” It’s ridiculous, yet this is what the Bengals have been up against all season. Anyway, they come out of the bye week, and not only beat Baltimore (again), they defied the logic of The Great Terry Bradshaw, who uttered on FOX NFL Sunday before the game:
"There's one thing you can guarantee in life, and that is that Cincinnati will not beat Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh."
Well, Cincy went on to beat Pittsburgh, at Heinz Field, and left Bradshaw, as well as other people, speechless. As Ed said yesterday, this team can make a serious run at the Super Bowl. Carson Palmer is healthy, their running game is very good, their receivers are nice, their defense is playing well, and their special teams is off-the-chain. Outside of Marvin Lewis running like he’s never played a sport in his life (seriously, watch him the next time we runs out to shake the hand of an opposing coach), I love everything about this team. Now I’m not going to crown ‘em; the AFC is too good to truly crown anyone, but I can say, with no doubt in my mind, what I have been saying for weeks now: the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t who we thought they were.