AFC Championship game: Why the Bengals are the team you should be rooting for to win …

For the first time since the 1988 season, the Cincinnati Bengals are playing in the AFC Championship game. 

If you’re wondering how long ago that was, let me put it this way: No one yet knew that Milli Vanilli couldn’t sing, Jessica Rabbit was considered the most attractive woman on earth (even though she wasn’t technically real) and the best show on television was about an alien (ALF) who likes to eat cats. What a time to be alive. 

Now is also a good time to be alive, especially if you’re a Bengals fan. 

The Bengals 33-year streak without going to a conference title game was the longest active drought in the NFL before they officially ended it with a divisional round win over the Titans. By my rough estimation, 50% of Bengals fans weren’t even alive the last time this team played in a conference title game. 

This feels like a team that America can happily get behind and I think what I’m trying to say here is that if your favorite team has already been eliminated from the playoffs and you’re looking for a bandwagon to jump on this weekend, go with Cincinnati, and here are five reasons why you’ll be happy you made that pick. Of course, if you do jump on the bandwagon, just keep in mind that to formally be accepted, you have to be willing to put chili on your spaghetti for the rest of your life.  

Everyone loves an underdog

If there’s one thing almost all sports fans have in common, it’s that they love to support an underdog, and let me tell you, there is no bigger underdog left in the playoffs than the Cincinnati Bengals. 

At the beginning of the season, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas gave them nearly a zero percent chance of winning the AFC North — and is there a number less than zero? —  because if there is, that’s the chance they gave the Bengals of winning the Super Bowl. If the Bengals were to win it all, they would tie the 1999 Rams as the longest preseason long shot to ever win it all. 

Any time you have a chance to jump on a bandwagon where you could witness history being made, you have to do it. To give you an idea of how big those odds are, just consider this: A $100 preseason bet on the Bengals to win the Super Bowl would pay out $15,000 if they won it all. 

Forget the Super Bowl though, no one was giving a the Bengals a chance to even get to the AFC title game. Their preseason odds to win the AFC were 60-1. Those odds were so bad that only two teams had it worse (the Jets and Texans). 

The Bengals have defied the odds all season and now they’ll get a chance to do it again on Sunday in a game where they’ll be the biggest underdog of the weekend. Despite the fact that the Bengals beat the Chiefs in the regular season, they’re still a seven-point underdog in the AFC title game. 

No one is expecting them to win, so the Bengals are asking the same question this week that they’ve been asking all season: Why not us? 

Before the 2021 season started, the Bengals had gone 31 years without winning a playoff game and no one expected that drought to end, but it did. They had never won a road playoff game in franchise history and no one expected that to change this year, but it did. And now, they have a chance to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years and it will be a lot more fun to watch if you jump on the bandwagon before Sunday. 

This team is fun to watch (even the kicker)

If you’ve seen just one Bengals game this season, then you probably already know that this team is fun to watch, but it definitely bears repeating so I’m going to repeat it: This team is fun to watch. 

Joe Burrow brings a swagger to the Bengals offense that hasn’t existed since Boomer Esiason led the Bengals to the Super Bowl back in 1988. With Burrow coming off a torn ACL that he suffered in 2020, no one was expecting him to dice up the league this year, but that’s exactly what he’s done. The addition of Ja’Marr Chase has created one of the best QB-WR tandems in the NFL. 

As a matter of fact, the two have been so good together that they actually just knocked Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill out of the record book. 

The Chiefs got a first-hand look back in Week 17 at just how dangerous Chase and Burrow are together. In that 34-31 Bengals win, Chase went off for an NFL rookie receiving record 266 yards, including the 69-yard score you see below. 

It’s not just those two though, the entire team is fun to watch. I mean, the kicker has been so good this year, that you can’t find his jersey ANYWHERE IN CINCINNATI. 

McPherson is so good, he already holds the franchise record for most 50-yard field goals with nine. To be clear, that’s not the single-season record, that’s the all-time record. 

Although the defense gets overshadowed, there are plenty of stars on that side of the ball and one of those stars is Trey Hendrickson, who finished with the fifth-most sacks in the NFL this year. 

Not only is this team fun to watch, but there are a lot of players to cheer for, which is why you should be jumping on the bandwagon right now. 

Bengals are the only team left that hasn’t won a Super Bowl

If you’re someone who gets bored of watching the same teams play in the Super Bowl every year, then the Bengals are definitely the team you should be cheering for. 

If you look at the other three teams in the conference title round, they’ve all been to the Super Bowl in the last three years and they all have at least one Super Bowl win under their belt. 

  • The Chiefs have gone to the past two Super Bowls and they even won it in 2019 (Boring). 
  • The 49ers have won five Super Bowls, they’ve been to seven Super Bowls and they went to one as recently as 2019 when they lost to the Chiefs. 
  • As for the Rams, they won a Super Bowl in 1999, they’ve been to four Super Bowls overall and they went to one as recently as 2018. 

These three teams have combined to play in NINE Super Bowls since the Bengals last appearance in January 1989. Not to mention, the Bengals are one of 12 teams in the NFL that have never won a Super Bowl and the only way they’re going to have a chance to end that drought is if they beat the Chiefs on Sunday, which is why you should be rooting for it to happen. 

We haven’t had a first-time Super Bowl winner out of the AFC since the Patriots won their first one back in 2001 and now seems like a good time for that drought to end. 

Bengals will finally be in primetime

It might seem crazy, but most of the country hasn’t been really able to watch the Bengals play this year and that’s because the NFL hid them away all season in a 1 p.m. time slot that’s usually only shown to about 1.7% of the country. If you don’t live in that 1.7% of the country, then you probably haven’t gotten to fully appreciate how good this team is. 

During the regular season, the Bengals only had ONE PRIMETIME game and that came in a Thursday night game against the Jaguars in Week 4. To give you an idea of how rare it is to have a team with so few primetime games on the cusp of the Super Bowl, just consider this: The Bengals could become the first team since the 2003 Panthers to make the Super Bowl in a season where they only got one primetime game. However, even those Panthers got to play two primetime games in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Bengals have been tucked away in the non-primetime slot for two straight weeks (4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday). 

If the Bengals make the Super Bowl, they’ll be the first team since at least 1990 to get there without playing a single Sunday or Monday primetime game at any point during the season. 

Basically, the AFC title game will be America’s first chance to watch the Bengals together on a Sunday, which is why we all need to be on their bandwagon now. 

A Bengals Super Bowl will give us amazing storylines no matter who they play

With two weeks to burn between the conference title games and the Super Bowl, you need something to talk about and the Bengals will give us plenty of fodder. 

Here’s a look at what the two possible Super Bowls would bring us: 

Bengals vs. Rams

Zac Taylor returns to Los Angeles. Before taking the Bengals job in 2019, Taylor spent two seasons on Sean McVay’s coaching staff in Los Angeles. Taylor started out as the assistant wide receivers coach in 2017 before being promoted to QB coach in 2018. The Bengals hired Taylor after the Rams made the Super Bowl in 2018 so it would be fitting for him to get to face his old team in the Super Bowl. 

Andrew Whitworth vs. the Bengals. If you want to pinpoint a moment when the Bengals started to crumble under Marvin Lewis, there are two that stick out: The loss to the Steelers in the 2015 playoffs and the team’s decision to let Whitworth walk after the 2016 season. After 11 seasons as the team’s left tackle, the Bengals let Whitworth walk in free agency and their offensive line has gotten progressively worse since then. It’s been six years since that decision and the team still hasn’t fully recovered. 

Bengals vs. 49ers

We meet again. Every time the Bengals have ever made the Super Bowl, they’ve ended up playing the 49ers so it almost feels like this is pre-destined to happen. If this does happen, it would be their third Super Bowl meeting, which would tie the Cowboys and Steelers for the most in NFL history. If we get 49ers-Bengals, you can bet that you’ll see a lot of old highlights in the two weeks leading up to the game including the 49ers goal line stand in their 26-21 win in Super Bowl XVI and Joe Montana’s 10-yard TD pass to John Taylor that gave San Francisco a 20-16 win in Super Bowl XXIII. 

If Montana and Taylor don’t connect for that touchdown, my dad (Bengals kicker Jim Breech) probably is named MVP of the game, which I’m only mentioning, because if any kicker can win MVP this year, Evan McPherson seems like the guy to do it. 

Seriously, a kicker could have won MVP. That’s the kind of excitement the Bengals bring to Super Bowls. 

40-year anniversary of Bengals first Super Bowl appearance. Not only did the Bengals play the 49ers in their first Super Bowl appearance, but there’s also another interesting tie to that season: They changed their uniforms. The Bengals added stripes to their helmets prior to the 1981 season and then made it to the Super Bowl during their first season in stripes. This past offseason, they also underwent a dramatic uniform change and once again, they might get to the Super Bowl in their first year sporting their new look. 

Bonus: Celebrities love the Bengals

I’m not saying you should cheer for the Bengals because a bunch of celebrities are, but it doesn’t hurt. Let’s start off with Woody Harrelson, who went to high school near Cincinnati and has been a fan for so long that he actually blamed himself for the Bengals playoff drought. 

If you’re looking for a celebrity fan from the music industry, you have John Legend and Nick Lachey, who are both from southern Ohio. 

There’s also Kirk Hirbstreit, Gary Owen and Rob Lowe’s brother, Chad, who hilariously filmed himself watching McPherson’s game-winning kick against the Titans. 

Of course, there’s also the most famous Bengals fan of all, George Clooney, who has been known to wear Bengals gear once in awhile. 

He also once gave the team a shout-out while being interviewed by Ed Reed before the Oscars one year. 

I’m guessing George is not hurting anymore. 

With the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, you can bet there will be quite a few celebrity fans in attendance if the Bengals make it. 

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