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The have had their fair share of struggles this season. They opened 0-2, dealt with a slow start from as he adjusted to the way teams defended him while being brutalized behind suspect offensive-line play, and then had to learn how to play for a stretch without star receiver , who has missed a month with a hip injury.

Yet here they are after 12 weeks, tied for first place, winners of three straight and seemingly ready to once again be a playoff team and potential division winner. Thanks to an impressive 20-16 road victory over the on Sunday, the Bengals are 7-4 and surging at the right time.

Super Bowl loser hangover? Maybe they are ready to defy that notion. At least it looks that way.

The Bengals are known as a pretty pass-first team, with Burrow and his skillful receivers able to put up big numbers. But that wasn't the case against the Titans. It was a physical, ugly game that forced the Bengals to win a different way.

They beat up the bully. 

The Titans are known as perhaps the most physical team in the league. They are keyed by the power running of and a defense that can attack the quarterback. But Sunday, the Bengals limited Henry to 38 yards on 17 carries and the Titans had one sack. Burrow threw for 270 yards, one touchdown and no picks, but he also ran nine times for 32 yards.

Just as the Bengals might be getting comfortable about their ascension to being tied for the top spot in the AFC North, here comes the in a monster game this Sunday. The Bengals beat the Chiefs twice last season, the last time in Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.

Beating them three straight will be a real challenge, even if the Bengals are riding high. There is a chance Chase will be back this week, which will help liven up the offense. It's likely this week's game will be more pretty than ugly in terms of offense with these two teams. 

No matter what happens, the Bengals showed against the Titans that they can win in a slugfest, which is a good sign for down the road. As they roll into December, the Bengals are now eighth in my Power Rankings, with that 0-2 start way in the rear-view mirror. 

The Chiefs are the league's top-ranked team, which makes Sunday another prove-it game for the Bengals. Win it, and they will certainly be viewed as a Super Bowl contender again. Lose, and the early troubles might be back at the forefront. But at least they showed they can win ugly against the Titans.

Those are the games teams have to win at some point, even if pretty and passing are the norms for Burrow and the Bengals. The toughness was on display in Nashville, the same toughness that helped them shock people to get to a Super Bowl last year. They might look gaudy as a team -- fun to watch -- but the Bengals can also bully the bully. That matters. That's why they are again a threat in the AFC.

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