Bengals Thursday Thoughts: What's After Bye?

There's a long way to go until the NFL playoffs, so enjoy the Bengals' joy ride while it lasts. Up next: The hated Steelers.

Savor this hot 6-0 Cincinnati start.

Nobody has any idea what's on the other side of the bye week for the Bengals, who tangle with AFC North rival Pittsburgh out of the gate when they take the field next, Sunday, Nov. 1.

The Bengals are 6-0 for the third time in franchise history, and looking to go 7-0 for the first time, after the bye.

Their first challenge in going where no Cincinnati team has gone before will be the hated Steelers -- its closest AFC North Division pursuer, now in second place at 4-2 -- at Heinz Field.

But that’s not until the day after Halloween. First, the bye week.

With the short-term future uncertain while certainly looking very bright, the feeling locally is growing that this Bengals team is more than just pointed toward the playoffs -- where they have gone, and exited early, the past four years -- continuing a 24-year postseason victory drought.

“We’ve got more key players healthy and doing well than the last few years,” said Marvin Jones, a fourth-year wide receiver. "And, in the mentality of the team, I feel a difference. I think it comes from looking at the versatility we have. You can’t have enough fingers to count the number of players who can change a game, and we expect greatness from all of them.”

From the defensive side, fourth-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said everything's different: “There’s something brewing. There’s something going on. This is a different team. I haven’t played on this team. This is my first time playing on this team. It’s not like the other teams. So many people can say a lot different things about what it is, but I just know it’s a different team, a different environment. We’ve bonded. And the bond has grown over the four years I’ve been here. I just see something great happening now.”

The Bengals are two games ahead of Pittsburgh as they head into the bye week. The Steelers have won three in a row, without their stud quarterback, and can cut the lead to one and one-half games with a win this week at Kansas City. Plus, injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's return is coming.

Defensive end Wallace Gilberry said it doesn't matter.

“Each game is a different game,” Gilberry said. “True enough, we’re one of the undefeated teams, but who’s to say we can’t get beat the next game? You can’t focus on the success you’ve had. You can’t even think about it. All you can do is go out there today, implement this game plan, go out here tomorrow, polish up the game plan, go out here Friday and Saturday and smooth out the game plan, and then Sunday, hopefully, execute it to best of your ability.”

On the talent front, the team's captain said the Bengals have that, in spades. So, no worries there, provided they stay relatively healthy.

“We have a lot of good players maturing at the same time,” said offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. “There’s still a long way to go, but I think that’s showing.”

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