With a second AFC North title in five years hanging in the balance and a shot at the first perfect season in Paul Brown Stadium history, the Bengals made a final effort to get Sunday's 1 p.m. game against the Vikings sold out when they received a 27-hour extension from the NFL.
The club has until Friday at 4 p.m. to get a capacity crowd, which would put the game on Cincinnati's Channel 19 on a day the Bengals could clinch the division with an eighth straight victory at home and a Ravens loss in New England. The Bengals could also clinch a wild card berth if they win and the Dolphins lose in Buffalo, qualifying for the playoffs for the third straight season and fourth time in five years.
While the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio is calling for temperatures in the mid-50s at kickoff with a 30-40 percent chance of rain dropping throughout the game, a defense that has been dominant at PBS is calling on the crowd.
"I think just crowd noise in general affects the offense's cadences, the audibles," says nickel cornerback Chris Crocker. "It doesn't allow them to do much, and our offense doesn't have to deal with it. Just in general when I think of the problems we've had on the road, we've had false starts and a lot of stuff like that. Teams come in here, they have the same issues. So it helps both ways, both offensively and defensively."
With the final two games of the season slated for PBS against Minnesota and Baltimore, the Bengals are outscoring foes by an average of 33-17 in building this season's 6-0 home record as they try to duplicate the 8-0 record at Riverfront Stadium racked up by the 1988 Bengals on the way to the AFC title.
Against a field that includes four of the top 11 passing teams in the NFL (No. 6 New England, No. 7 Green Bay, No. 9 Cleveland, No. 11 Pittsburgh), the Bengals have held opposing quarterbacks at home to a 66.3 passer rating on just seven touchdown passes despite the four delivered by Andrew Luck of Indianapolis back on Dec. 8 in a 42-28 victory the Bengals took a 21-0 lead.
They're also holding offenses to 25 percent on third down conversions (20-80) at PBS.
"We have home field, we just need to come in, the crowd needs to be loud for us," said WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict. "We just need to go out there and do our job. We won't win the division until we do."
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