One of the more frustrating things about the Bengals' endless playoff victory drought has been how low are standards are.
We don't talk about things like winning championships. Instead, our fixation is on the Bengals winning one playoff game.
Singular, not plural.
That standard is, of course, very, very low. The list of uninspiring teams that have made the playoffs and won one game is very, very, long. The list of mediocre teams that have qualified for the watered-down playoffs in a watered-down league is even longer.
The Bengals, after winning yesterday in Denver, have a chance to add their name to that list. The victory over the Broncos has the Bengals at 4-6, which is the same exact record as 40 percent of the AFC.
Those 40 percent are each a game out of the last wild card spot.
The current holders of that final spot are the Baltimore Ravens, a team that defines words like "average," "bland," and "meh." Behind them are the Buffalo Bills, a team that can't figure out if it wants to make the playoffs.
Behind it are the AFC's 40 percent, which, aside from the Bengals, includes lightweights like the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, LA Chargers, and Houston Texans.
Even the 3-7 Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts - each beaten by the Bengals during this "run" to the playoffs - can at least attempt to talk playoffs while trying to keep a straight face.
In the middle of all of this is, of course our Bengals, who did slightly more good than not good in Denver yesterday, while "earning" a place in the playoff conversation, one that will get louder with a win this coming Sunday against the Browns.
Cincinnati's schedule is forgiving enough that if you want to ignore their many deficiencies and focus solely on their remaining opponents, you can start to imagine them playing in January after all.
(Jim Mora voice)
That word doesn't mean what it should, not when we're talking about a league that not only lacks excellence but rewards teams that accomplish little more than not being awful. The league's middle is huge, with more than half of its teams being almost impossible to distinguish from the others. And the playoffs are inclusive enough that there's often room for a team, or two, or three, that don't exactly evoke thoughts of their place in history.
To put it succinctly, the NFL sucks right now.
But the Bengals, by virtue of basically not being the Browns, could benefit.
So much for high standards.