Happy New Year, everyone. Here's to a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2014 for you and yours.
As the calendar changes and we reach a new year, the Cincinnati Bengals are out to prove they are a new and improved group that has absolutely nothing to do with their comparatively rotten past. While they may cling to their history as a point of reference for how the franchise has progressed in recent years, still, their goal is to convince their fans and those who aren't that these days and these years are different.
Now that the playoffs are upon us, the only way for them to do that is to go out and win, and win, and win and win one more time. Like coach Marvin Lewis said Monday when he was asked about his 0-4 record in the postseason, "If I can even my record, we'll feel pretty good. That's my goal."
Four wins in this year's playoffs wouldn't just make him 4-4 all-time in the postseason, it would mean he not only led the Bengals to the Super Bowl, but pushed them toward winning it.
One thing the Bengals hope this new calendar doesn't bring is bad luck at Paul Brown Stadium. During the regular season at the end of 2013, their fortunes were great. After all, they scored 40 or more points in four straight home games, had six defensive touchdowns at home and ran through opponents there at an 8-0 clip. It was the first undefeated home season Cincinnati had since its last Super Bowl year in 1988. Like their trip in 1981, the Bengals lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.
Also like in 1981, the Bengals are hosting this San Diego Chargers in this year's playoffs. While they hope the result is the same, the Bengals are thankful they shouldn't be seeing the minus-59-degree wind chills that made that 1981 AFC Championship Game famous.
Oh, and keeping the whole full-circle theme going, the 49ers also are in this year's playoffs, just like they were in those two years. Could a rematch be looming? In order for that to happen, the Bengals have to win, win and win some more.
As we bring you the first Morning Stripes entry of the new year, we take a look at one Boston writer who wants to see the Bengals beat the Chargers on Sunday only for them to be pummeled by the Patriots a week later:
Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy pulled no punches in this New Year's Eve column he wrote about the playoffs and the Patriots' likely division-round opponent. By virtue of winning the AFC's No. 2 seed, the Patriots entered the playoffs with the first-round bye and will host the winner of the Bengals-Chargers game next week. Because Cincinnati has coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals will be destroyed by a revenge-minded New England team if it wins this week, Shaughnessy wrote. He called Lewis and Dalton "tomato cans ripe for the kicking."
Shaughnessy may very well get his wish for a Bengals-Patriots postseason grudge match. Like Todd Jones of the Columbus Dispatch writes, the Bengals are very encouraged by their play at home this season, and believe it can be a difference-maker in these playoffs. Paul Brown Stadium is one advantage Cincinnati has over San Diego. If the Bengals get by the Chargers and Patriots, with a Denver loss, they would be right back at home a week later for the AFC Championship Game.
Much has been written in the last two days about the Bengals' lagging playoff ticket sales, including this ESPN.com story that tells you they now have fewer than 10,000 tickets to sell for Sunday's game. From the Cincinnati Enquirer, here's a story about how a well-attended game could affect the local economy. The region could see a financial boost this weekend upward of $14 million.