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NFL: Are the Bengals hitting their form at the perfect time?

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Game week 10 in the NFL was a perfect one for the Cincinnati Bengals. They travelled to the home of their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the hopes of gaining a measure of revenge for the opening day defeat they received at the hands of the same team. And courtesy of the brilliance of quarterback Joe Burrow, that’s exactly what they got.

The former National College Champion with the LSU Tigers helped himself to 355 passing yards and four touchdowns as his side picked up a 37-30 victory in front of 68,000 at the Acrisure Stadium. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

The visitors went in at the break 20-17 down following Najee Harris’s rushing touchdown and George Pickens’s reception in the second quarter. But a solid defensive effort throughout the third and fourth quarters restricted the hosts to just 10 points.

The Bengals meanwhile managed to add an additional 20 points throughout the second half thanks to their magnificent quarterback, as well as placekicker Evan McPherson, who kicked 17 points en route to a massive win.

And it was somewhat of a redemption game for McPherson. The 23-year-old missed two huge kicks – one in the last minute of regulation time, and another in overtime – in the opening game against the Steelers, allowing the visitors that day to secure victory. He will be sleeping a little easier now knowing that he has made up for those previous misses.

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Replicating last year’s heroics

It was always going to be tough following on from last season’s incredible campaign. The Ohio-based outfit ended the regular season with a record of 10-7 to lift the AFC North. From there, they would defeat the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans and shockingly defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime – away from home nonetheless – to lift the AFC Championship and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl for the first time in over 30 years.

And it looked as though they would lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in their history back in February at the SoFi Stadium. OddsChecker, which compares NFL odds and free offers, had made them underdogs for Super Bowl LVI, but they nearly sprung the upset.

Heading into the fourth quarter, they led 20-16 and continued to hold firm as time ticked away. But lack of discipline would set in, and a string of penalties saw the Los Angeles Rams on 1st & Goal inside the two-minute warning.

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From there, quarterback Matthew Stafford would find Wide Receiver Cooper Kupp, and that day’s MVP made no mistake, receiving the touchdown and, in turn, the first Super Bowl for the franchise in over 20 years.

Super Bowl hangover 

The disappointment of that heartbreaking defeat appeared to creep into the beginning of the new Bengals season. As we alluded to earlier, they would lose their opening game in dramatic circumstances to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They would then lose their second game on the road at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, where more field goal drama awaited them.

The previous year’s beaten finalists battled back from 17-3 down at halftime at the AT&T Stadium to level things up at 17-17, before Brett Maher sent over a field goal with the last play of the game to secure a 20-17 victory for the hosts.

Burrow and co. sprung into life after those defeats, however, and quickly leveled up their record with impressive victories. Firstly, on the road at the New York Jets, and then ending the Miami Dolphins’ perfect start to the season at Paycor Stadium.

Since then, inconsistency has been the order of the day. The Bengals lost to fellow AFC North outfit the Baltimore Ravens, before securing back-to-back victories against the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.

Another defeat against division rivals the Cleveland Browns followed on game week eight, before again they secured consecutive victories. Firstly, they defeated Cam Newton’s former side, the Carolina Panthers, before defeating the Steelers on enemy territory.

If the Bengals are to replicate last season and reach the postseason for just the second time in seven years, they will have to do it the hard way. They still have to face Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs, Tom Brady’s Buccs, and Josh Allen’s Bills. They have beaten them before, but they will have to do it again.

The Bills remain the outright favourites

At the start of the 2022 season, the Buffalo Bills were made the favourites for Super Bowl glory, and it’s clear to see why. In recent years, they have built a star-studded line-up, led by the likes of Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs and Running Back James Cook. Of course, the jewel in the crown is quarterback Josh Allen.

The 26-year-old has thrown for 2,930 yards this season, a figure only bettered by Patrick Mahomes. He has also managed to pick up 21 touchdowns along the way, again only beaten by Mahomes and the Bengals’ Joe Burrow.

So far this term, the New York State-based outfit sits second in the AFC East, level with the Miami Dolphins with a record of 7-3. They have reached the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, however, all of their postseason adventures have ended in disappointment, twice at the hands of Mahomes and the Chiefs.

They have already beaten the Chiefs this term. Allen led his side to a 24-20 victory on the road on game week six and, the chances are, if they wish to lift their first ever Lombardi Trophy, they will have to beat them again in the playoffs.

If they can go all the way to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona’s State Farm Stadium, it will be their fifth appearance in the championship game in franchise history. Unfortunately for them, however, all four of their previous endeavours ended in failure.

And to make matters worse, all four defeats came back-to-back. Between 1990 and 1993, the Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls, and they will be aiming to lay those ghosts to rest in the new year.

Sourced from Africa Feeds

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