Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is not one known for hyperbole. In fact, getting him to say almost anything definitive in front of the press is like pulling teeth. So when Lewis told his audience at his daily presser that Sunday's game against the Houston Texans was "the biggest game I've been in in the NFL" it's understandable that a few jaws dropped.
Not only is Lewis famously tight-lipped, he's been around the NFL for awhile. Not only has he coached the Bengals to two playoff berths, he was also the defensive coordinator for a Super Bowl champion in Baltimore. That Lewis has placed this type of emphasis on a week 14 matchup is telling.
“This is the most important game we have played in December I would say. This is the biggest game I’ve been in in the NFL. This is important for our team because it can springboard us where we need to go. We can build upon this game, it allows us to continue to build and that’s what's important. These guys have worked extremely hard and this is an opportunity to reap a benefit from how hard they worked. This is a big win to win now because of what it means and how it continues to keep us moving forward. Its a rebirth and it’s good where we are.”
As much as we've all been surprised by the Bengals' success this season, Lewis' comments say that he has been too. He's more than a little amped up about what his team, thought by many to be preseason NFL doormats, has been able to do.
A win Sunday against the 9-3 Texans would accomplish several purposes:
1. With only one other game remaining against an AFC foe (Baltimore) it would guarantee a winning conference record and put them in excellent tiebreaker position for any wild card berth. It would also guarantee at least a .500 record and most likely put them on track for a 10-win season.
2. With St. Louis and Arizona coming in the next two weeks, a victory over Houston could be the springboard to another winning streak that would boost the team's confidence heading into the final game at home against the Ravens and any playoff game.
3. The biggest complaint the Bengals have heard this year has been about their lack of "signature" wins. They beat a previously undefeated Buffalo team earlier in the year, but the Bills have fallen on hard times since. Their best win so far has been at Tennessee. Losses in the past few weeks to Baltimore and Pittsburgh have only intensified the need for the Bengals to knock off a playoff-caliber team.
Other noteworthy news from the press conference included the team's injury status. Carlos Dunlap is likely to miss a third straight game while Nate Clements is listed as questionable. Cedric Benson and Andre Smith both missed practice time this week, but are probable for Sunday.
Also of importance, Houston's injury report lists WR Andre Johnson as doubtful. This would be a huge break for a banged up Bengals secondary. His absence combined with Houston having to play rookie QB TJ Yates would allow the defense to concentrate more fully on stopping the Texans' high-powered running game.
Fans attending Sunday's game are also reminded that it's the annual collection for the United States Marine Corps' Toys for Tots campaign. All fans are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy or cash donation to benefit less fortunate children in the community. Traditionally, wives of Bengals players are stationed around Paul Brown Stadium along with a member of the USMC collecting donations. For more information, contact Sgt. Jonathan Briick at 513-221-2370 ext. 311.
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