Much has been said about the Cincinnati Bengals path to the playoffs this season. After the loss to Baltimore to close out the season, critics pointed out that the Bengals didn't defeat a single playoff team on their road to the NFL post season. As usual, a closer look shows that the critics are "cherry-picking" some statistics and not telling the entire story.
First, the Bengals aren't the only team not to have beaten a 2011 playoff team. As of this writing it would appear that the New England Patriots, the top seed in the AFC will fit into that category as well, assuming the New York Giants defeat the Dallas Cowboys. Not only that, but the Patriots can boast not a single win against a team with a winning record. The Bengals defeated the 9-7 Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
The most telling statistic about the Bengals' schedule illustrates the consistency with which they played in 2011, something that belied their youth and relative inexperience. Among playoff teams, only the Bengals, 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to lose to any team with a losing record this season. That's a pretty amazing stat when you consider it.
Baltimore laid an egg in Jacksonville and in Seattle. The Texans lost to the Colts. Even Green Bay couldn't seal the deal in Kansas City. The Bengals played 16 games and never once "played down" to their opponents. They won when they were supposed to win.
Even in the Bengals' losses, they showed up. In seven losses only one, the debacle in Pittsburgh was decided by more than one score. That includes the two losses to Baltimore, another against Pittsburgh, a home loss to the 49ers, a two point defeat at Denver and the one that got away against the Texans who the Bengals get in the first round of the playoffs next week.
These young Bengals shouldn't let anyone tell them they "backed in" to the playoffs or somehow don't deserve to be there. They took care of business when they had to. Teams like the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders had that chance and didn't. They'll be watching the Bengals play next Saturday.
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