It always feels good when a prediction you make comes true.
On Oct. 29, 2021, The Daily Times published my column about the Bengals making the Super Bowl.
Here is what I said two days before an embarrassing loss to the lowly New York Jets.
“The Bengals have a long way to go in the season.
But with the combination of Burrow’s confidence and the production on both sides of the ball, everyone’s eyebrows are raised.
Could this be the year of The Jungle?
Are they for real?
Let’s not get ahead of Sunday’s game against the Jets, but just know that I am glancing at the prices of airline tickets right now to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. – the home for Super Bowl LVI.”
After the Jets won, I received some messages laced with a few negative expletives.
Some implied that I had no idea what I was talking about.
Excuse me? Have you checked who’s playing on Feb. 13?
This week, I booked my flights and hotel rooms — because I was cleared for media credentials to cover the third Super Bowl appearance in Cincinnati Bengals’ history.
This team cannot be counted out — no matter who they face.
Yes, they lost to the Jets.
Yes, they lost to the Chicago Bears.
Yes, they lost to the Cleveland Browns – TWICE.
But look what the Bengals have done over the past several weeks.
They dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They crushed the Baltimore Ravens.
They knocked off the Las Vegas Raiders.
They thumped the No. 1 seed Tennessee Titans.
And yes, they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs – TWICE.
Granted, I had my doubts throughout the first half of the AFC Championship game on Sunday in Kansas City—especially when the Chiefs bolted to a lead of 21-3 early in the contest.
To be honest, I even checked with Southwest from my perch atop Arrowhead Stadium to see if I could find an earlier flight back to Ohio to beat the potential mad rush of celebratory Chiefs fans.
But my wife told me on the phone to sit tight and believe.
Then my colleague John, sitting next to me as he has done all season, said to give Cincinnati one more possession.
The Bengals scored, and then a key moment in the game happened seconds away from the halftime break.
The Chiefs had the ball at the Bengals one-yard line with five seconds left on the clock with a 21-10 lead.
Head Coach Andy Reid opted to go for the jugular and knockout punch, instead of sending out the field-goal unit for a potential 24-10 advantage.
He listened to his gut, and to his quarterback Patrick Mahomes who convinced him to go for the touchdown.
He got greedy.
In the playoffs, it’s all about the points.
Emotional decisions are okay during the season.
But when the AFC Championship is on the line – you take the sure points.
Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow also said this was the turning point in the game.
Mahomes was shaken during the second half.
He took consecutive sacks from defensive end Sam Hubbard that not only sparked the Bengals, but rattled the QB.
He also tossed untimely interceptions.
On the other end, Burrow was cool and calm down the stretch.
“I don’t know if you ever want to get down 21-3,” he said. “I said earlier in the year when we started making some of these comebacks, I never really feel like we’re out of it, but obviously 21-3 isn’t exactly the most exciting position to be in.”
But next week, Burrow and the Bengals ARE in an exciting position.
I am thrilled to be heading to LA, but not to hobnob with Hollywood elites.
That’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
I also don’t care where the game is played. Well … wait a minute.
Maybe I do care.
The last time I covered a Super Bowl was in Minneapolis four years ago when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
I remember when I walked outside, I felt my beard freeze because it was 10-degrees below zero.
The forecast for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles is partly sunny with a high of 76.
If the Bengals can find a way to limit the hits and sacks on Burrow from the Rams’ destructive defensive line, they have an excellent chance of winning the Super Bowl.
They have the weapons to put points on the board.
The last two weeks they have demonstrated that they can go into a hostile environment and come out victorious.
Come to think of it, I wish I would have gone a step further in my October prediction.
If the game is close, you can always count on “Money Mac” to kick the Bengals into Super Bowl history.
See you in L.A.
Del Duduit covers the Bengals for The Daily Times