For a time this season, it appeared that the Cincinnati Bengals were going to be the latest victim of the "Super Bowl hangover" that has often plagued losers of football's biggest game in the past. The Bengals dropped their first two matchups of the season and were just 4-4 at the eight-game mark.
But something happened after the Bengals were embarrassed by the Browns in Cleveland on Halloween. Maybe it was getting thumped by a mediocre division rival or a matter of things falling into place. But the Bengals dropped a piano on the Carolina Panthers the following Sunday, and they haven't lost a game since.
On Sunday, the Bengals faced their stiffest test of the season as Patrick Mahomes and the AFC-leading Kansas City Chiefs came to town. In beating the Chiefs for a third straight time, the Bengals served notice to the rest of the league.
If there was a hangover, it's long gone now. These Bengals are every bit as good as last year's team and quite possibly better. And what's more, Cincinnati is playing as well as any team in the NFL as we head into December and the stretch run.
As Charlie Goldsmith wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirer before Sunday's rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game, Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said he expected the same thing most fans and pundits did—an exciting, back-and-forth affair between two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.
"Anytime you get premiere players like Mahomes and Burrow together and in a game, it's just great for competition," Callahan said. "It's great for the sport. If you're a fan, it's got to be exciting to want to go watch that. They're just two really, really talented competitors."
He wasn't wrong. Sunday's game absolutely lived up to the hype, with Burrow and Mahomes exchanging haymakers. For the third time in as many meetings, it was Burrow who was the last man standing.