There’s little doubting the ease in which the Cincinnati Bengals have opened up a significant lead in the AFC North. The Bengals’ divisional competition is headlined by the Baltimore Ravens, who are a shell of their championship selves. The Steelers and the Browns are still struggling to remain relevant at this point in the season.
Such easy competition may be great for actually making it into the postseason, but for battling through the playoffs, it’s not necessarily ideal, especially for a team that has been as shaky at times as the Cincinnati Bengals have been.
In high school football, big schools playing in weak divisions often run the table during the regular season, but when it comes to the postseason, they get trounced partially because they haven’t played anyone up to their own level all season. That’s the type of trap the Bengals may be falling into.
At 6-2, the Bengals are currently on pace to obliterate the rest of the AFC North. The Ravens are in second place with just a 3-4 record and showing no signs of threatening the Bengals down the stretch.
If, however, the Bengals remain vigilant in preparation, they can avoid the problems associated with some high school teams. I’ll explain.
In the NFL, unlike high school or even collegiate football, the difference between the best in the worst is often negligible. The Jaguars gave the Denver Broncos a minor scare earlier in the year, and although we can argue whether the Broncos are the league’s best team, there’s little doubt the Jags are the worst the NFL has to offer.
If the Bengals stay on top of their own preparation and understand the playoffs will be a whole different game than the AFC North, they may stand a chance at making a deep playoff run. With such an easy divisional schedule, they may even be able to snag a first-round bye week.
Right now, the Bengals are flying under the radar in a very weak AFC North. If they can continue winning, the playoff hype may start, but don’t be surprised if they’re outplayed in the playoffs once they see more serious competition.