The Cincinnati Bengals tumbled from playoff position with Sunday's loss to the San Francisco 49ers. As a result, Zac Taylor's team sits among a hodgepodge of 7-6 clubs in a mishmash of an AFC playoff race, currently the No. 9 seed.
Sunday's overtime defeat was crushing. It marked the Bengals' fourth defeat of three points this season. After getting outraced by the Los Angeles Chargers the week prior, the back-to-back losses have the Bengals outside looking in. Taylor, however, believes his team has postseason mettle.
"I don't think anybody wants to play us, quite frankly," Taylor said, via Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "And we haven't won all the games that we felt like we should've won. But I think our guys have a ton of confidence, and people see what they're about, see the talent we've got in all three phases, and see that we're going to fight to the last second."
With an explosive offense behind Joe Burrow and standout rookie Ja'Marr Chase and an improved defense, the Bengals have the talent to hang with elite squads when they put it all together.
On Sunday, Cincy faces the similarly 7-6 Denver Broncos (No. 10 seed) in what could wind up being a loser-goes-home game.
The Broncos are 0-3 against AFC North games this season, scoring fewer than 20 points in each of those contests. Denver is also 0-5 since 2020 versus teams entering the game with seven-plus wins and 0-4 versus teams with a winning record entering Week 15 or later.
Likewise, the Bengals haven't experienced much winning lately. Cincy is 1-7 since 2018 against teams with seven-plus wins entering the game.
The road is difficult for Taylor's team, with every game remaining against a team with a winning record (Week 15 at Denver; Week 16 vs. Baltimore; Week 17 vs. Kansas City; Week 18 at Cleveland).
The Bengals will have to turn around their close-game fortunes if they're to make their first postseason appearance of the Taylor era.
"Take all these lessons we learned from these tight games and find ways to finish these games off," Taylor said. "Losing in the manner that we have and we fight hard and make it a good game but you got to find a way to finish off these close games."