Over the past three weeks, a blog reader has asked in the chat: Do you think the Bengals can win the AFC North? My answer every time is this: Ask me after they beat Baltimore or Pittsburgh.
The Bengals have lost eight straight combined meetings with the Ravens and Steelers, the two teams who have dominated this division. The Bengals' new cornerstones to the franchise, receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton, have gone 0-for-5 against those two teams.
That's why the Bengals (3-3) are placing so much importance in beating the Steelers (2-3) on Sunday night.
"This is a must win for us," Green told the team's official website. "We let two slip away from us [losses to Miami and Cleveland] that we felt we should’ve had, but we can’t go back to those games. So, I feel like this is a must win because it’s a division game. If you want to take the next step you’ve got to be able to beat those teams, Baltimore and Pittsburgh."
I wouldn't classify any game in October as a "must win," but it's an important game for two teams who are reeling. It's also an important step for a Bengals team that wants to be considered contenders for the division title once again.
In five games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Dalton has four touchdowns and six interceptions. Against the rest of the NFL, he has a 12-5 record with 28 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
"For us to get to where we want to be, we've got to beat teams like that," Dalton said. "Hopefully it starts this Sunday. We feel like we've got a good attitude going in. Yeah, we've had the losses, but we're confident in our abilities. For us now, it's just going out and playing and executing."