Given a golden chance in the AFC playoff picture, the Cincinnati Bengals give it back

By the time the Cincinnati Bengals kicked off on Sunday night, they knew they got the help they needed in the AFC playoff race.

Miami's late win over New England gave the Bengals the inside track to the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. And the Bengals stumbled coming out of the gate, then got trampled.

The Steelers rolled the Bengals. They were up 21-0 in the first quarter. Nobody had even settled into the NBC broadcast, and it was over. Pittsburgh ended up winning 30-20.

This is why nobody trusts you, Bengals.

No matter how good the Bengals look at times, and no matter how much talent they have, it's hard for people to buy into them as a Super Bowl contender. There's always a "Bungles" joke dropped at their expense whenever you think it's time to take them seriously.

Cincinnati picked the wrong time to have a bad night. The Steelers may have some pride, but they also knew what happened in Miami. The Dolphins' win makes it almost impossible for the Steelers to make the playoffs. Yet, with the Steelers having little to play for, and the Bengals trying to catch the Patriots and pass them for the No. 2 seed (Cincinnati has the tiebreaker), the team with everything to play for fell absolutely flat.

Cincinnati also kept Baltimore very much in the AFC North race. The Ravens are only one loss back, with a game coming on Monday night, and they play at Cincinnati in Week 17. If they're within a game of the Bengals by then, the final game will determine the division title. The Ravens would clinch the tiebreaker by beating the Bengals in the finale.

The Bengals can look very good at times. Some nights, like Sunday night at Pittsburgh, they can look pretty bad. The Bengals fans have gone through decades of losing. Every time you want to trust that this specific team is past that history, something like Sunday night's debacle happens.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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