The Bengals are returning to the playoffs for the second straight season, but they are making the trip under different circumstances.
Cincinnati went into the final week of the season with their playoff position unsecured last season, which meant there was no question about resting starters ahead of a trip to Houston. The Bengals don’t know who they’ll play in the first weekend of the playoffs this season, but the fact that they have clinched raises the notion of pulling back on the throttle because you know there’s another game around the corner.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has faced that question twice before and he chose to rest players both times. The Bengals lost both those games, which might be part of the reason why Lewis is offering no holiday breaks this week. He asked reporters how well resting starters worked out in the past before explaining his rationale this time.
“I think it’s important for our team to play well,” Lewis said, via CBSSports.com. “We are going to play to win the football game. [We're playing for] improvement. Each and every time we go out. That’s what we have been doing since November 4th is working to play better every time we had an opportunity to play. We’ve done that, we need to keep doing that.”
The Bengals have won six of seven games and they’ve allowed just over 12 points a game during that span. Keeping that momentum going would seem to serve the Bengals well as they try to win a playoff game for the first time in more than 20 years.