Bengals start strong, draw tough slate

Cincinnati can contend with the return of sidelined players

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons | Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict can be a major factor in the team’s defense once he returns from his NFL-sanctioned four-game suspension.

For the last few years, the Bengals have gained a notoriously bad reputation for making consistent first-round exits in the playoffs.

In fact, the Bengals have the second-longest postseason losing streak in NFL history with eight losses in a row, only trailing the Detroit Lions who have an active streak of nine games. Seven of these eight losses came under current head coach Marvin Lewis. As a result, it came as a shock to many that Lewis was retained by the team.

He was viewed as being on the hot seat at the end of last year. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported in December 2017 that “The Bengals are likely to undergo a major haul to their coaching staff. Some assistants could wind up staying, but many are expected to leave along with Lewis.”

For this season Lewis has a similar core group of players from the previous years. The Bengals have retained wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton.

They have formed one of the best QB-WR duos in the league, with Green eclipsing the 1,000 receiving yard mark in six of his seven complete seasons he has played.
The Bengals were also able to retain eight-time pro bowler and defensive end Geno Atkins on a four-year contract.

The Bengals certainly have their bright spots, and that includes Joe Mixon, a 22-year- old starting running back who has eclipsed 179 rushing yards in just two games this season.

“The offense has gotten a lot better since Bill Lazor took over,” junior Joe Shepardson said. “With Tyler Boyd and Mixon getting better, the team could make a playoff run, especially after Vontaze Burfict returns from suspension.”

Unfortunately, the Bengals also have many notable players who are either injured or suspended. Vontaze Burfict is a longtime Bengals linebacker who has accumulated more than $4 million in fines throughout his career and has served three separate suspensions.

For a good amount of the season, he has been more of a name on the roster than he is a player on the field. Burfict is suspended for the first four games of this year after testing positive for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Green, a star wide receiver, endured a groin injury in the week three game against the Carolina Panthers.

After this injury, the Bengals failed to score again, and they ended up losing their first game of the season by a score of 31-21. That was a forgettable game in which Dalton had four interceptions against two touchdowns and the defense allowed 31 points as well as 184 rushing yards to running back Christian McCaffrey.

A 2-0 start in the NFL holds a historically favorable outcome for the playoffs. Since 1990, teams that started the regular season 2-0 made the playoffs 62 percent of the time.
“I’ve been quite surprised on how the Bengals have been playing so far,” junior Zach Pottschmidt said. “Luckily, they are in first place in the AFC North, which is a good sign for now.”

This prompts a common question: Did the Bengals start strong because they were good, or were the teams that they played bad? The argument can go either way. One thing for sure, however, is that Cincinnati’s schedule gets much tougher.

The Bengals have 13 games remaining, and 10 of those are against teams that currently have a .500 record or better. That unpromising statistic will put the ultimate test on an injury-ridden Bengals team.

By: Andrew Zerman | Guest Writer