Jan. 14—Area Bengals fans are fired up for Saturday's game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Cincinnati's first playoff game in six years and a chance to snap a 31-year postseason winless streak.
"I've very optimistic about the team," said lifelong Bengals fan Alexandra Farmer, 24, of Kettering. "I think that any game that the boys go into, they have that opportunity and that chance to win."
The Dayton native recalls watching Bengals games with her entire family including her great-grandmother, eating pizza and yelling at the TV. After her great-grandmother, who watched every game, died at 97 years old in 2019, Farmer has worn her Bengals sweatshirt every Sunday ever since.
She plans to wear it again Saturday while watching the Wild Card Round of the AFC playoffs.
The Bengals' last playoff win came on Jan. 6, 1991, when the team scored a Wild Card round victory over the then Houston Oilers. But the celebrating didn't last long. The next week, during the divisional round, the then Los Angeles Raiders beat the Bengals, knocking them out of the playoffs.
The team wouldn't return to the postseason for the 2005 Playoffs, but failed to win then and also in the 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 Playoffs.
You would think fans of a franchise that has lost eight straight playoff games might hesitate to be positive about the Bengals' chances of victory this Saturday.
You would be wrong.
"We're going to win," said lifelong Bengals fan Tracy Logan, 50, of Germantown, who will be at Paul Brown Stadium Saturday with her fiancé, sister, brother-in-law, son and nephews. "Joe Burrow is incredible. He's just awesome ... and they have the wide receivers. I mean, c'mon. He's dedicated, he's very serious. He's the new Tom Brady."
Logan, who teaches first-grade in the West Carrollton school district, is known as "the Bengals teacher" because of her fervor for the team. She adorns her classroom in as many Bengals decorations as possible and, each Friday, wears her black-and-orange gear. She even drives an orange car with an orange license plate that reads "3WhoDey."
A Cincinnati native whose family has always been Bengals fans, Logan said the team making it to the playoffs this year is because Burrow has "changed the culture of the organization" and because the team plays with "a different mentality" than previous iterations.
That, in turn, creates a different atmosphere in the stands, she said.
"When you go to the games, everybody's hyped," Logan said.
Doug Pietrzak, 57, of Troy, a season ticket holder since 1989, will be at Saturday's game with his 27-year-old son. He said he's hopeful they'll get to see a Bengals win not only today, but also a few more times.
"With a little bit of luck they could definitely make the AFC Championship," he said. "They could make the Super Bowl actually, I think. They've got to play to their full potential and get a few breaks. "
That positivity, he said, is fueled by Burrow.
"He just is a proven winner," Pietrzak said. "He's got that killer instinct. He's very decisive in what he does and knows what direction he wants to go and how he wants to lead this team."
Rooting on the Bengals is in the DNA of 40-year-old Abby Bixler, of Russia in Ohio's Shelby County, .
"My dad was raised a Bengals fan and he raised our family the same way," Bixler said. "He always said regardless if they win or lose, you always support the Bengals. There was never another team. Now, my husband and I are the same way with our boys. You stick with your team win or lose."
The excitement in the Bixler home was "off the charts" when the Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs Jan. 3 to clinch the AFC North, with she and her husband and their 11- and 8-year-old sons exchanging a flurry of high fives.
Logan said the Bengals' excellence extends to the attitude of the entire team, not just Burrow.
"Years in the past, you never knew what you were going to get out of some players on the Bengals team and I think they've kept their cool all season," she said. "They're acting like professionals, where ... you never really got that" with previous Bengals teams.
"When the going got tough in the past, the Marvin Lewis teams, they crumbled," Logan said. "They didn't handle it and it got dirty and it got ugly. This team has always kept it together and I don't know if it's partially (head coach) Zac Taylor, if it's Burrow or if it's just the whole group themselves, but there's just something about them that's different than the years in the past."
Bixler said she and her father will be at Saturday's game and are "looking forward to every minute of it."
"Playing the Raiders, we feel like we've got a chance," she said. "I'm so excited. I can't wait to go."
Dennis Vitori passed down his love of the Bengals to his Middletown daughter and she's passing it down to her sons.
They have attended Bengals games as a family for decades, including the famous "Freezer Bowl" when wind chill temperatures at Riverfront Stadium dropped to minus 37 degrees, the coldest in NFL history. The Bengals beat the San Diego Chargers, 27-7, on Jan. 10, 1982.
Ami Vitori remembers the pipes froze in the stadium so there was no water. That meant no toilets.
"That was big for me back then," said Ami, 8, at the time.
She's hoping for warmer weather, running water and another Bengals season not flushed down the drain this year.
Staff Writer Rick McCrabb contributed to this story.
HOW TO WATCH
WHAT: AFC Wild Card Game, Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
HOW TO WATCH: NBC
HOW TO LISTEN: 700 WLW, ESPN 1530 and 102.7 WEBN
LINE: Bengals favored by 6.5 points
WEATHER FORECAST: Snow showers, high of 35 degrees
BENGALS PLAYOFF HISTORY SINCE 1990
1990: Wild Card; Cincinnati 41, Houston 14; Division: Los Angeles 20, Cincinnati 10
2005: Wild Card: Pittsburgh 31, Cincinnati 17
2009: Wild Card: New York 24, Cincinnati 14
2011: Wild Card: Houston 31, Cincinnati 10
2012: Wild Card: Houston 19, Cincinnati 13
2013: Wild Card: San Diego 27, Cincinnati 10
2014: Wild Card: Indianapolis 26, Cincinnati 10
2015: Wild Card: Pittsburgh 18, Cincinnati 16
2021: Wild Card: Las Vegas vs. Cincinnati