The Playoff Picture With 4 To Go

Posted by Dan Hoard on December 5, 2011 – 7:12 pm

Did you feel lousy after watching Sunday’s rout in Pittsburgh?

Well imagine how it felt if you had been on the receiving end of that pounding and had to watch every mistake all over again on Monday morning.

“It’s a disgusting feeling,” said receiver Andre Caldwell.  “It hurts, but we have to get over it because we have another big game to get ready for this week.”

“It’s a horrible pill to swallow, but we have to have short-term memory, put it behind us, and move on,” said linebacker Manny Lawson.

Lousy performances happen – just ask the Steelers who lost by the exact same 35-7 score in week one to Baltimore.  Despite the blowout, the Bengals are still the final playoff seed in the AFC and play three of their last four games at home.    

“The way we lost hurts, but in the grand scheme of things, a loss is a loss,” said receiver Andrew Hawkins.  “That loss is no different than when we lost close games to Denver and San Fran.”

“The biggest thing is that this game only counts one,” said quarterback Andy Dalton.  “We can’t let it affect us for the rest of the season because we still have four games to go.”

Here’s a look at how the Bengals remaining schedule compares to the other four AFC teams with 7-5 records (along with their conference records for tie-breaker purposes).  Keep in mind that Denver or Oakland is likely to win the AFC West.

Denver (7-5, 6-3 AFC):  Chicago, New England, at Buffalo, Kansas City (combined record = 26-22)

Cincinnati (7-5, 6-4 AFC):  Houston, at St. Louis, Arizona, Baltimore (combined record = 25-23)

Tennessee (7-5, 5-4 AFC):  New Orleans, at Indianapolis, Jacksonville, at Houston (combined record = 21-26)

Oakland (7-5, 5-5 AFC):  at Green Bay, Detroit, at Kansas City, San Diego (combined record = 28-19)

New York Jets (7-5, 5-5 AFC):  Kansas City, at Philadelphia, New York Giants, at Miami (combined record = 19-29)

If you go by combined record, the Raiders have the toughest remaining schedule, the Jets have the easiest, and the Bengals are right in the middle.  While the loss in Pittsburgh virtually eliminated them from winning the AFC North, the Bengals are still playing for playoff position – not draft position.

“We’re still a good team – we have to eliminate big plays and tackle better,” said Lawson.  “You have to watch film, learn from your mistakes, and it has to be like water off of a duck’s bath.  You have to just wipe it off.” 

“We’re all disappointed,” said Hawkins.  “We thought we would go in there and win and we lost.  What we’re doing now is looking at the tape, we’re making corrections, and we’re trying to move past it.  We have six days to get ready for Houston and that’s the most important thing right now.”

If the Bengals win on Sunday, they’ll be 8-5 with three games to go.  Last year, that was Green Bay’s record through 13 games and the Packers lost the following week to fall to 8-6.

They haven’t lost since.

Feel any better?

* * * * *

I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 on Fox Sports 1360-AM.  On Friday, I’ll join Artrell Hawkins for “Bengals Pep Rally” from 3 to 6 at the Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash on ESPN 1530-AM.  Andrew Whitworth is scheduled to join us in the final hour.

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