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Monday, November 18, 2013
Morning Stripes: Bengals enter bye on high

By Coley Harvey

Finally, the Cincinnati Bengals are saying, after 11 physical weeks, it's here: the bye week.

With now 13 days to rest, heal up and refocus their energies, the Bengals are thankful for the much-anticipated arrival of this year's late off week. On Sunday afternoon, in their final game before the bye, the Bengals got things steered back into a positive direction when they rallied past the Cleveland Browns for a 41-20 victory. Along with a Ravens loss and Steelers win, the victory pushed Cincinnati's lead over the rest of the AFC North to 2 1/2 games, providing a rather significant cushion ahead of the bye.

It's a better place to be than the alternative. A loss Sunday would have left Cincinnati with a 1 1/2-game lead, and at risk of watching it drop to a single game while idle this week. A loss also would have been the third straight for the Bengals, and could have had a truly devastating psychological effect on the team. After starting 6-2, it would have lost three straight to go to 6-5, and would be looking to stay above .500 at San Diego in two weeks.

Even though that's not the case, that alarming possibility prompted Bengals safety George Iloka to say the following: "From here on out, every game will be crucial."

For the rest of the season, the Bengals don't want to have to climb out of the type of early 13-0 hole that they were able to get out of Sunday. They want to shake the slow starts and start hitting teams with their best shots earlier.

As we begin this look-back edition of the Morning Stripes, we'll start off with a couple of links from our ESPN NFL Nation Bengals blog:
The Bengals may be getting ready to take a few days off, but the work doesn't stop here on the Bengals blog. Make sure you stay with us every day this week where we'll have analysis and features.