CINCINNATI (AP) -Marvin Lewis put the discouraging numbers up on the board.
Trying to instill a little more hope in his last-place team, the Cincinnati Bengals coach showed the AFC standings during their morning meeting on Wednesday. The list was daunting.
They're at the bottom of the AFC North, three games out of first place. Their 2-5 record was tied with Oakland for third-worst in the conference, ahead of only the New York Jets (1-7) and the Miami Dolphins (0-8).
That's inspiring?
Apparently so.
Lewis' point was not to show where they are, but where they could be if they got on a winning streak starting Sunday at Buffalo (3-4), one of the 13 teams that have a better record than them.
He pointed out that teams ahead of them will lose games because they have to play each other, providing a chance for the Bengals to save their season - provided that they start to win, of course.
``Oh, yeah, there's definitely a chance,'' said running back Rudi Johnson, who returned to practice Wednesday recovered from a hamstring injury and expects to play against the Bills. ``We've got plenty of hope, man. We saw the standings this morning of where exactly we stand in the AFC.
``You've got some teams that have great records, but those teams are going to play each other sometime throughout the year. So we've got to worry about ourselves and what we have to do, and that's go out and win every game on our schedule.''
That's where they stand. Approaching the halfway point of the season, the Bengals are already in a win-or-else mode.
That's not good.
A 24-13 loss to first-place Pittsburgh on Sunday left them with no margin for error the rest of the season. The schedule gets a little easier from here on out - winless Miami and St. Louis are yet ahead - but they've probably got too much ground to make up and too many teams to climb over.
Lewis' message for the week: Don't give up yet.
``The playoffs are possible,'' Lewis said. ``The playoffs are there. The playoffs are not out of reach. But we don't need to worry about them. We need to worry about win No. 3 in Buffalo this week. That's what's important. We don't need to look ahead.
``If we take care of ourselves, we'll be fine. And at this point, we can still do that.''
A loss on Sunday would leave them 2-6, their worst midpoint record since they were 1-7 under coach Dick LeBeau in 2002. They finished 2-14 that season, LeBeau got fired and Lewis was brought in to turn things around.
The Bengals are having a throwback season. Those standings on Wednesday made it clear that this one is headed in the direction of all the other bad ones - only one winning record since 1990 - unless there are major changes right away.
``It puts it out there and it's no sugarcoating it,'' guard Bobbie Williams said. ``That's where we're at to this point. Ain't no getting around it. We've got to take that, look at that and do something about it.
``It was real good for us. It was an eye opener. Now it's up to us to take it and do what we want with it.''

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