COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Bengals climbed to the third playoff seed in the AFC with a convincing Week 14 win over the Indianapolis Colts, 42-28. The win bumped the Colts from the third seed and positioned the Bengals for a run at the second seed and a playoff bye week by virtue of the Bengals win this season over current two seed, the New England Patriots.
The success on the field for the playoff-ready Bengals has resulted in a corresponding rise of the team in some power rankings:
Despite the Week 14 win, the Bengals remained ninth in the Sagarin Ratings overall and fourth in the AFC behind the 11-2 Denver Broncos, the 10-3 New England Patriots and the 10-3 Kansas City Chiefs. The ratings that factor strength of win project the Bengals as a 5-point favorite on the road against the 23rd-rated Pittsburgh Steelers.
If the Bengals are to continue to rise in both playoff seed and national rankings, a win over the 5-8 Steelers is needed to position the Bengals for a two-game run at home to close the season with a maximum advantage heading into the postseason.
Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports kept the Bengals ranked seventh overall and third in the AFC (behind the Broncos and the Patriots). Schwab remarks that the Bengals season finale at home against the Baltimore Ravens could determine the winner of the AFC North but also notes that the Bengals appear to be too good of a team to let that happen.
The Bengals would have to win their next two games against the Steelers on the road and the Minnesota Vikings at home to eliminate the possibility of a division-deciding game between the Bengals-Ravens in Week 17 if the Ravens win their next two.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports is sold on the Bengals, elevating them two spots to fifth overall. While Prisco observes that the Bengals are on a roll and will be a tough playoff out, he still ranks the team third in the AFC behind the Broncos and the Patriots.
Prisco also notes for the Steelers (who he ranks 22nd) that another non-playoff season could bring heat to head coach Mike Tomlin, which will instill the Bengals-Steelers clash in Week 15 with the potential for more urgency if Tomlin still has control of the team.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk also lifted the Bengals to fifth in his power rankings. However, rather than providing any insight about the Bengals success this season or the team's convincing win over the Colts in Week 14, Florio instead limited his remarks to how good Bengals' coordinators Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden would be as candidates for the Houston Texans head coaching job, which could also be said with equal relevance for virtually all of the NFL teams who are out of the playoff picture this year.
Florio also has the Bengals third in the AFC behind the Broncos and the Patriots.
The Bengals failed to rise from the eighth spot in the ESPN power rankings despite handily defeating the Colts in Week 14. The flash by Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton may not have been quite enough to quell the consistency issues that have marked Dalton's season, but the ESPN comment this week does provide an interesting insight into how Dalton fared passing against five rushers: 15 of 17 for 180 yards with three touchdowns.
Despite the encouraging performance by Dalton, ESPN has the Bengals ranked fourth in the AFC behind the Broncos, Patriots and Chiefs.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for more than five years. He posts his NFL draft predictions each year at footballnostradamus.com.
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