Thursday, February 2, 2023
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Three teams better than their records going into Week 13; three that are worse

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I was this close to picking the Dolphins here, but at 8-3, is Miami really being slept on as a Super Bowl contender? Perhaps, but it would have been a lot easier to make that choice if the Fins were at, say, 7-4. 

Instead, we’ll go with a team that theoretically should be exempt from such a list. Typically, when a team makes a Super Bowl, it would be more apropos to give it an “overrated” designation the following year. But the Bengals helped land themselves here by starting the season 0-2, then falling to 2-3 via a Week 5 loss to the Ravens, then enduring a Week 8 clock cleaning by the Browns that briefly stalled their momentum. Outside of that game, however, Cincinnati has looked pretty damned dangerous the past two months.

Sunday’s win over Tennessee, at the site of Cincinnati’s momentous road playoff victory, was pretty massive. Had the Titans won that game, perhaps they’d have been the ones to beat out the Dolphins for real estate in this space. But the Bengals’ ability to shut down Derrick Henry and control the game from about the mid-second quarter on served as proof they are a legitimate operation again.

It was about this time last season that the Bengals hit the turbo button, notching late statement victories against the Ravens and Chiefs ahead of their run to Super Bowl LVI. There are still some whopper games left on this year’s schedule, starting with another rematch against Kansas City, the two teams’ third meeting in less than 11 months, followed by five other tough games. 

But those contests will provide ample evidence of whether the Bengals truly can run with the league’s heavyweights or not, and whether their much-maligned offensive line and defense can stand up to such stiff tests. Getting receiver Ja’Marr Chase (who’s been out since Week 7) and running back Joe Mixon (who missed Week 12) back healthy for the home stretch could be enough to make the Bengals scary once more.

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