In the spirit of the holiday season, here are some post-Christmas wishes for the Cincinnati Bengals as they enter the final game of their 2018 season.
With 16 weeks of football out the door, there really isn’t much left for the Cincinnati Bengals and their fans to be excited for as we enter the final game of their season. After a 4-1 start to the year the team sits broken and battered at 6-9, guaranteed to have the worst record in the AFC North for the first time since 2010 and only the second time in the Marvin Lewis era.
With little remaining worth getting excited over, Bengals fans may be feeling like there’s no reason to pay attention to the team until late April.
I must disagree. While they can’t do anything in terms of turning this season into a success, there are outcomes yet undetermined worth not only paying attention to, but rooting for to come to pass.
Here’s a quick list of some outcomes worth watching out for during 2018’s final slate of regular season games.
You want to talk about ending on a high note? None could be bigger for this team than upending their hated rivals from Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh has dominated Cincinnati since the rivalry first began. The Bengals have never led the season series, and the closest they’ve ever been was breaking even at 1-1 in 1970; currently, the series stands at 63-35 in Pittsburgh’s favor. They lead the series 24-8 since Marvin Lewis became the head coach for Cincinnati, including 13-3 in the Andy Dalton era.
In the Lewis/Dalton era specifically, Pittsburgh has levied some truly disastrous defeats to these Bengals. There was a 33-20 blowout in 2015 which resulted in Dalton getting injured during what had been a dark-horse MVP season. Then came a brutal 18-16 comeback in the 2015 playoffs without Dalton that turned on a late Jeremy Hill fumble and multiple devastating Cincinnati penalties.
The next year, a 24-20 collapse in December 2016 which saw the Bengals lead 17-3 and 20-6 in the first half before getting blanked in the second as the Steelers made a soul-crushing comeback. Finally, there was a 23-20 loss in December 2017 which was essentially a carbon copy of that December 2016 defeat (17-0 Cincinnati lead at one point).
This year’s earlier loss had to hurt as much as any. Cincinnati kept up all game and took a late 21-20 lead, but late penalties, bad defense, and a great final playcall gave Pittsburgh the late victory when it had appeared the Bengals had finally done what was necessary to break through the wall the Steelers have always been for them.
It was that loss where Cincinnati’s season turned from being fun (4-1 before) to being a depressing slog (2-8 since), and it is this team which has always been the biggest roadblock in Cincinnati’s way and caused them so much strife.
That’s the biggest reason why beating Pittsburgh on the final weekend of the year would be gigantic for Cincinnati, even if it can’t even get them out of the AFC North basement. As a bonus, it would also be the decisive blow to any last hopes that Pittsburgh has of making the playoffs this season.