By Conrad Clowers
Herald Sports Writer
The Cincinnati Bengals look as if they may be poised to make a legitimate run at not only getting to the Super Bowl, but winning the coveted classic. It’s premature and anything is still possible. Like a Kentucky Derby horse that sprang past two other horses to take the lead in the final turn, the Bengals just surpassed the Baltimore Ravens and are in first place for the first time in 2022. Cincinnati defeated Tampa Bay 34-23 to solidify the first place. It also took a Baltimore loss to the Cleveland Browns to make it happen.
Legitimately, there are thee teams from the AFC (American Football Conference) that could represent for the AFC in the Super Bowl. Buffalo, Kansas City, and Cincinnati. Cincinnati and Buffalo will have a huge January 2 meeting. The game could determine or have implications as to what team will host all of their AFC playoff games. Currently the Bengals hold the third seed in the AFC, but holds the tie breaker with the Kansas City Chiefs as the Bengals defeated Kansas City in a match earlier this season.
The one area of concern for Cincy is the injuries to starters. Trey Hendrickson, Mike Hilton, Tee Higgins, and Hayden Hurst have all missed time recently due to injury. The team that makes the deepest run into the playoffs is not always the best, but the one who can get the luckiest to avoid serious injury.
The single most important person at the most important position has not only been healthy all season, but is also in the MVP discussion. The difference Joe Burrow has made for the Bengals in 2022 is nearly immeasurable. Currently Burrow is amongst the league leaders in nearly every category. He is fourth in passing yards (3,885), and second in touchdown passes (31).
It was in 2 of the 3 Super Bowl appearances the Bengals had (1982 & 1989) quarterbacks Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason were named MVP’s. Burrow could well be on his way to being the third Bengal ever to win the award.
The team is now in the final stretch of the season. Only games with the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, and Baltimore Ravens remain. The game with the Bills could decide home field advantage in the playoffs and the game with Baltimore could decide the winner of the AFC North Division. Much left to be decided with high stakes in 2022. Cincinnati has not lost since Halloween night. Three more wins would make for a great start to 2023.