After NFL Week 2 this season, a friend of mine asked me which teams I thought had the best shot of making it to the playoffs. I chose the Cincinnati Bengals and the New Orleans Saints. Turns out, I was right about the Saints.
Going into NFL Week 12, I rank the Saints as the best team in the NFL. The Bengals? They’re not close to getting into my Top 20. Cincinnati has been a train wreck this season. There are reasons why. Check it out!
Cincinnati Bengals 2017 Update
As of NFL Week 10, the Cincinnati Bengals are 3 and 6. Last season, the Bengals went 6 and 10. They’ll be lucky to win 6 games this season. It sounds crazy, but this veteran team is worse in 2017 than it was in 2016.
There are reasons why. Below, I take a deep dive into the disaster that is the 2017 Cincinnati Bengals.
Will the Bengals Offensive Line Protect QB Andy Dalton?
Answer: Sort of.
The biggest question most NFL fans had going into the season was how well the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line was going to protect QB Andy Dalton. The answer is sort of. Let me explain.
The Bengals have only allowed 25 sacks this season. Bengals opponents have allowed an average of 26 sacks this season. The Bengals’ defensive line is actually better than many of their peers’ defensive lines in the NFL. Therefore, 25 sacks allowed is mediocre. It’s sort of. It’s not a flat out no.
Andy Dalton has been terrible this season. One of the reasons is because he might have peaked as a starting QB. The mediocre offensive line will definitely accentuate Dalton’s struggles. Bad O-line play isn’t the sole reason for Dalton’s struggles.
The truth is that Dalton has only had a single season of great quarterback play. In the 2015-2016 NFL Season, Andy Dalton acquired a 106.3 QB rating. One of the reasons for Dalton’s great rating that season had to do with the Bengals incredibly easy schedule. The AFC West wasn’t that great that season. Save for Seattle and Arizona, the NFC West, whom the AFC North played, was horrible. The Bengals, as always, got to play Baltimore and Cleveland twice.
2016-2017 was worse for Dalton. His QB rating dropped to 91.8. Still, that was Dalton’s second best QB rating for his entire career. What that tells us is that Dalton is an 85 to 88 QB rated signal-caller. Sure, a better offensive line might help, but playing an easy schedule might help just as much. The 106.3, heck, the 91.8, are anomaly QB ratings when it comes to Andy Dalton. The mid to high 80’s QB rating is the norm.
That’s Not the Only Potential Problem with the Bengals’ Offensive Line
Cincinnati drafted RB Joe Mixon. Mixon became one of those guys that had great potential this season. He’s actually shown that potential. The problem is that the Bengals are an absolutely horrible rushing team.
It’s actually sad. Cincinnati’s got 3 decent running backs on their team: rookie Joe Mixon, thunderous Jeremy Hill, and lightning quick Giovanni Bernard. All 3 have had horrible seasons. Bernard averages 4 yards per carry. He’s only rushed for 113 yards. That’s what happens when a decent running back only gets 28 carries. Bernard has caught 17 passes for 196 yards. He’s also caught 2 TD passes. So, that’s okay, I suppose. It’s not great, actually it’s just okay.
It’s better than Jeremy Hill. Hill has rushed 37 times for 116 yards. His per rush average is 3.1. He’s caught 4 passes for 16 yards. His yards per catch average is a measly 4.0. Hill hasn’t scored a TD this season.
Mixon has been the most effective running back. The reason is because he’s gotten the most carries. Mixon has 107 carries for 321 yards. He’s scored 3 rushing TDs. He’s caught 21 passes for 207 yards. Could it be that the Bengals’ offensive line just doesn’t know what the heck it’s doing?
Doubtful. Yes, the offensive line isn’t great at run blocking. But, it’s difficult to place blame solely at the feet of the offensive line. The reason is because Cincinnati’s play-calling has been dreadful. In a 14 to 29 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7, Joe Mixon rushed 7 times for 48 yards. He averaged 6.9 yards per rush.
That’s the problem with the play-calling. Mixon only got 7 carries in that game. Why would you only give the football to Joe Mixon 7 times if he’s showed success rushing it? To make matters worse, Cincinnati was only down 6 points, 20 to 14, against the rival Steelers at halftime.
So, while the offensive line definitely needs some work, Cincinnati’s play-calling has been horrendous. That, coupled with the bad offensive line, and an unwillingness to commit to a real strategy, has led to the Cincinnati Bengals’ terrible numbers on offense.
Can the Cincinnati Bengals Defense Get to the Quarterback?
Answer: A lot of the times
The Bengals have sacked opposing quarterbacks 26 times. That’s not the best in the NFL. Jacksonville has sacked opposing quarterbacks 35 times going into NFL Week 11. Pittsburgh has sacked opposing quarterbacks 34 times.
26 is good. It should be good enough for Cincinnati to have a Top 15 defense, which the Bengals do have based on onemeasure, yards allowed per game. Cincinnati only allows 321 total yards per game. The issue with that stat is the ratio of passing yards allowed to rushing yards allowed.
Opponents only pass for 197.4 yards per versus the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s fantastic. The issue is Cincinnati’s rush defense. The Bengals allow a ridiculously high 123.6 rushing yards per game on average.
If you can’t stop the run, you don’t get as many opportunities to stop an opposing team’s pass rush as you normally would. This is Cincinnati’s problem. They’ve got fantastic pass rushers. Since those pass rushers can’t plug running holes, those pass rushers aren’t often in a position to rush the quarterback.
Could defensive play-calling be the issue with the Cincinnati Bengals? It might be. Or, the Bengals might just have a lot of pass rushers.
Cincinnati Bengals Super Bowl 52 Chances
Cincinnati has no shot of making the playoffs, much less winning Super Bowl 52. The Bengals should win 2, maybe 3 more games this season. Week 11’s battle is versus Denver. I believe Cincinnati can beat the Denver Broncos. Unless the play-calling is absolutely horrendous, which it could be, the Bengals should have no trouble dominating a Denver defense that has allowed 41 points to New England and 51 points to Philadelphia in the Broncos last couple of games.
That’s a win. Cincinnati should beat 2 out of the 3 teams that they play the rest of this season: Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, or Detroit. Cincy also has a shot to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. That’s a rivalry game.
Cincinnati should finish at 6 and 10.
How Can the Cincinnati Bengals Turn This Around?
The only way for the Bengals to turn this around is to rebuild. The problem with the Bengals is that, like the Baltimore Ravens, they’re just a tired franchise. Marvin Lewis has been the head coach in Cincinnati since 2003. There’s something to be said for coaches that aren’t afraid to make changes like Sean Payton in New Orleans, Bill Belichick in New England, and Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh. All 3 of those coaches are willing to mix it up on both offense and defense to get better.
Marvin Lewis hasn’t done that. It’s time for Marv to go. It’s also time for the Bengals to move Andy Dalton, and go with A.J. McCarron. Dalton, as I wrote above, has had one good season since breaking into the NFL.
McCarron makes sense. He’s shown flashes of being a real starting quarterback in the NFL. If the Bengals decide to allow McCarron to leave via free agency, the Bengals should consider drafting one of the high-potential quarterbacks available.
As far as the offensive line is concerned, it only takes effort in free agency, and smart Round 2 to Round 5 drafting, to put together a decent offensive line. The Bengals’ front office hasn’t made the offensive line a priority.
That must change right away, this week even, if Cincy hopes to ever become a winning franchise.