“They know what’s up”

The Cincinnati Bengals have become accustomed to being ridiculed and mocked by NFL circles. Over the decades, the Bengals were either cellar dwellers or postseason-goers.

Joe Mixon, runningback of the Las Vegas Raiders isn’t laughing as he heads into Sunday’s wild-card game with them.

Mixon declared, “Everybody had been sleeping on us. Everyone was not wanting us to count in.” Visit the official website of the team. “Now we have all the pieces we need, and we can play in games like these, where we can compete for championships. These are the guys Zac Taylor brought in.

“Back then, everyone used to laugh at our schedule and say, ‘Oh, the Bengals are going to play us. It’s just one week. It’s not all laughing and jokes, they’re aware of what’s happening, they know where we’re going.”

After finishing 4-11-1 in 2020, the Bengals improved their record to six wins by 2021. Dallas and Cincinnati were the only two teams that saw a six-win increase. They made the playoffs and won AFC North for first time since 2015.

Taylor’s third season saw Cincy go 10-7 after going an NFL-worst 6-25-1 in his previous two campaigns. After averaging 19.4 ppg and 319.8 total yards per game, the Bengals had 27.1 PPG (top ten in league) and recorded a +84 differential (top ten in league) in 2021. This was just one year after they posted a combined 19.4 ppg and 319.8 total yards per game and logging a -113 point differential.

The explosive offense led by Mixon, Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd gives the Bengals legitimacy heading into the postseason. Cincy is able to score with anyone.

The Bengals offense recorded their highest PPG per game in a season (27.1), since 1988 (28.8) when they won AFC Central and lost Super Bowl XXIII.

Cincinnati is also third in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard quarterback (Burrow), 1,000-yard rusher(Mixon), or 1,000-yard receiver, all of whom are under 25. The Bengals are the OnlyOnly one NFL team has ever had multiple such receivers (Chase and Higgins).

Cincy’s defense has also improved, making the Bengals a more complete team that could push hard into the postseason.

Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff playoff game since 1990 Wild Card Round — which is the longest active drought without any playoff wins (30 seasons). Since their last playoff victory, the Bengals have been 0-8 in this playoffs. Their wild-card opponent, the Raiders, has the longest such drought at 18 years.