Bengals fans. Photo by Michael Mitchell

By Conrad Clowers

Herald Sports Writer

Photos by Michael Mitchell

The 2023 season will go on. There鈥檚 going to be single game elimination playoffs, a Super Bowl, and a champion crowned on February 11. Unfortunately, it will not include the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Cincinnati finished the 2023 season with a 31-14 win against the Cleveland Browns. The good news is the win allowed the Cincy to finish with a 9-8 record and a win in the division. The bad new is the Bengals beat a bunch of Cleveland reserve players, and there will be no playoffs. The Browns solidified a playoff sport the previous week and rested many players.

Bengals fans. Photo by Michael Mitchell

For so many years, finishing with a winning record was like winning the Super Bowl. Bengal underachieving was the standard.聽

Once the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow, those standards changed. Anything less than an AFC championship appearance is a disappointment. Burrow went down to injury in the middle of November. With Joe Burrow鈥檚 ending season so went the Bengals chances. If you do the math you鈥檒l see. Burrow has played 4 years. The two seasons his season ended early due to injury Cincinnati didn鈥檛 qualify for the playoffs. The two seasons he was healthy all season they went to Super bowls and conference championships.

From almost the beginning of the 2023 season Cincy was doomed. Burrow suffered a calf injury early into training camp. It took him a quarter of the regular season before he was deemed fully healthy. Just as the superstar QB was right with his legs, he suffers a season ending wrist injury.

Bengals fans. Photo by Michael Mitchell

At that point fans, hearts said were going to fight and be in this. Heads said, it鈥檚 over! Throughout, all the Bengals fans supported the team. This past weekend game with Cleveland was a prime example. Despite the team having nothing to play for a strong and rowdy crowd came out and cheered for a Bengal team that was going nowhere. The Who-dey!..Who-dey! Chant went from the opening kickoff to the final play of the game. Though the game was decided by halftime, most fans got their moneys worth and stayed until the bitter end in the freezing temps. With the economics of the NFL, most knew it would be the final time fans would get to see some of their favorite Bengals. When the 2024 season starts many Bengal free agents will be with other teams.

The 2023 season may not have lived up to the recent expectations of the previous two. However, one thing is true. The standards are unquestionably higher. If anyone would have told me out of the Steelers, Ravens, Browns and Bengals only the Bengals would not be in the playoffs I would have laughed.

The future in Cincy still looks very bright. Like with any football team, health and depth remain critical. The team that wins it all is not always the best,  but the one that has been the luckiest in health. 

It will be rough watching teams in the playoffs knowing there will be no chance at the Lombardi trophy this season. But by all measures, the Bengals have the roots to come back strong. Cincy is now on the clock for the 2024 season.

Bengals fans. Photo by Michael Mitchell

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