When Bengals 101 consulted its Magic 8-Ball back in August about the Bengals' fate in 2011, the response was "outlook not so good." After watching the team get off to a 4-2 start, we decided to go back and query again as to how the Bengals will fare following this week's bye week. This time, our spherical soothsayer responded, "Signs point to yes."
The problem with Magic 8 Balls is that they're long on results, but short on analysis. So here's my breakdown of the rest of the schedule and how the Bengals will finish in 2011.
Cincinnati will open their post-bye portion of the schedule in Seattle. They'll struggle on the road on the West Coast, but the defense will carry the day to victory. The next week in Tennessee, road fatigue and an excellent Tennessee defense will result in a loss. That leaves the Bengals at 5-3 at the midway point and at the beginning of a grueling series of games within the AFC North.
That will begin auspiciously against the Steelers at home. Pittsburgh, with serious issues on both lines, may be the most overrated team in the NFL this season. The Bengals defensive line will harass Big Ben and the Bengals get the win. Traveling to Baltimore will be a different story. Baltimore may be the most complete team in the AFC. I see a loss there, followed by another win against Cleveland at home the following week. A narrow loss in Pittsburgh to the Steelers will see the Bengals go 2-2 in this critical stretch, putting their over record at 7-5 with four games remaining.
The Bengals will rebound with a narrow victory over a Houston Texans team in turmoil and reeling from injuries at home and then respond with convincing wins over the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. Heading into the season's final game, a home tilt with the Ravens, the Bengals will stand at 10-5. Baltimore will have clinched the division already at 12-3. With Baltimore resting some of its players for a playoff run, the Bengals will win at home and finish 10-6.
Whether that record will be good enough for a wild-card berth depends on a variety of factors, but our Magic 8-Ball sees a great finish for the Cincinnati Bengals.
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