The League

Jim McCormick
Blitz Magazine Publisher

Jim McCormick

The editor and publisher of Blitz Magazine

The bad luck Bengals

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Who knew that an errant last-ditch throw by Kyle Orton in his Denver debut would have lasting implications for several franchises?

A rogue tipped ball can sway the perception and outcome of a season as much as months, even years of work can. For the Bengals, the Immaculate Deflection to Brandon Stokley that ended with a video game-esque maneuver may very well define the Broncos' destiny. Conversely, it may fatefully define the Bengals' fortunes as well.

The truly suspect division leaders in the league right now are Cincinnati and Arizona. The enigmatic Cardinals are uniquely imbalanced on both sides of the ball but have just one challenger for the division crown in the still maturing 49ers. The sad annual truism in the NFC West is that 9 wins likely nets you the division, and the Cardinals seem to be in the best position to reach that lofty perch. The Bengals, meanwhile, are similarly imbalanced but have proven to have a strong running game and stout run defense, elements that often translate into enduring success.

The predicament for the Bengals is that, unlike the Cardinals, they are embroiled in a contentious division race with proven powers Baltimore and Pittsburgh. While Cincinnati has played well against legit competition so far this season, they've also had to pull off late drives in several of their victories.

Their season will likely be defined in the next two weeks against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. If they can split with their division foes they enter a savory stretch that includes the fallible trio of Oakland, Cleveland and Detroit. This could put them at 9-3 with a likely chance at securing at least a wild card berth in a uncharacteristically shallow AFC. Then again, this is the Bengals we're talking about.

If franchises are somewhat branded by an identity, then the Bengals' is of a team perennially beset by misfortune and miscalculation. From Carson Palmer's tragic playoff injury against the Steelers, in 2005, to the litany of legal woes the roster has endured, they've long been a team on the wrong side of success. While these 2009 Bengals are a talented and veteran group that have a realistic shot at January football, they may pay a large price for the Denver loss as they face the toughest road of all of the current division pacers.

By Jim McCormick  |  November 4, 2009; 4:53 PM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Baltimore Ravens , Cincinnati Bengals , Denver Broncos , Indianapolis Colts , New England Patriots , New Orleans Saints , Philadelphia Eagles , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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