“When you think about the East, it’s always been down to the wire,” linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. “It’s always been close. It’s a brutal NFC East, grind ‘em conference, division. It’s going to come down to the wire.
“We just need to keep playing well, think about a game at a time and eventually hoping we get to the end.”
That’s the same approach the Bengals have taken while digging out of their 3-5 start. One difference: Cincinnati’s defense has been much better over that span. The Bengals have scored 31, 28, 34 and 20 points during their four wins while holding opponents to 13 points or less.
As a result, Cincinnati is tied with Pittsburgh for the final wild card spot, although the Steelers won their first game this season. Both trail Baltimore by two games in the AFC North with four to play. Cincinnati ends the season at Pittsburgh and home against the Ravens.
“We’ve got to take care of our business and let everything else fall into place, but I think there’s a chance,” Dalton said. “Baltimore’s in control of their destiny too. We’ll see.”
The defense has given up only one touchdown in the last three games and leads the NFL with 39 sacks. End Carlos Dunlap was the AFC’s defensive player of the week for getting five tackles, two sacks and forcing two fumbles in a 20-13 win at San Diego. Tackle Geno Atkins leads all NFL interior linemen with 9 1/2 sacks. End Michael Johnson has eight sacks.
“Everybody is getting to the quarterback,” Dunlap said. “This week fortunately it was me. We’re all just working in tandem. I feel like that’s starting to pick up this season. We didn’t start out the season the way we’ve wanted, but we’ve gotten better each week.”