The Cincinnati Bengals are still in the playoff hunt. They’ll just need to play better than they did today if they want to stay there.
Cincinnati got off to a slow start and trailed by 10 late in the third quarter today against the Browns, and for much of the game it looked like the Bengals were going to blow it. But late in the fourth quarter, A.J. Green stepped up.
With the score 20-20 late in the fourth, Green had a sensational 51-yard catch-and-run to set up the winning field goal, and Cincinnati won 23-20.
Although Green never reached the end zone himself, both of the Bengals’ touchdowns were set up by big plays from Green, one a 24-yard catch and one a 35-yard catch. There’s plenty of talk that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is the NFL’s rookie of the year, but you can make a good case that Dalton is not even the best rookie on the Bengals’ offense: Green has been outstanding.
At 7-4, the question now facing the Bengals is whether they can beat a good AFC opponent. They’ll have two opportunities to do just that in their next two games, at Pittsburgh and home against Houston. Win both, and the Bengals are undeniably major players in the AFC playoff race — but to do that they’ll have to play better than they did today against the Browns. Lose both, and they’re probably out of it.
It remains to be seen whether the Bengals can get to the postseason. But considering where the expectations were before the season, it says a lot that we’re even talking about that at the end of November. And no one has been more important to the Bengals’ turnaround than Green.