After a 4-1 start to the season, the Bengals found themselves in first place in the AFC North. Now a few short weeks later, they sit at 5-4 in second place behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bengals can still make the playoffs, in fact if the season ended today they would be the number six seed. But the Bengals are trending in the wrong direction, and many people are beginning to write them off. Here is how and why the Bengals will still make the playoffs in 2018.
Their major problem right now is the defense. They are ranked 30th in total yards allowed and 31st in points allowed. This makes it very hard for a team to win even with their offense ranked 11th in total points scored, averaging 26.1 points per game. The defense as a whole has to improve, but how? For starters, they fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin following last Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the New Orleans Saints. Austin’s defense got off to an okay start through the first few weeks, coming up big with turnovers that led to multiple wins. The defense took a turn against the Steelers and seemingly never got back on track. On the final defensive drive of the game, the Bengals defense allowed the Steelers to march down to field goal range after letting them convert on a long third down and a costly defensive holding penalty by Dre Kirkpatrick. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Austin called an all out blitz a few plays later where Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown to give the Steelers the win. After the game, Vontaze Burfict was on tape asking why they called a play they had never even practiced.
— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) October 14, 2018
From here things continued to get worse for the defense, with multiple players beginning to question Teryl Austin’s methods. This continued to snowball, the Bengals would go on to give up 500+ yards on defense in three straight games, an NFL record. This led to the Bengals making an usual move, and firing a coach midseason. This now puts Marvin Lewis in total control of the defense, a move that could ignite a late season spark that this defense desperately needs. Lewis was known as a defensive guru before taking the head coaching job in Cincinnati. Lewis is the man behind some of the best defenses in the Super Bowl era. It is now all eyes on Lewis who appears to already be working first hand with the defense on the basics of football. A good sign for Bengals fans.
— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) November 14, 2018
Hue is back!
Hue Jackson! I know that Bengals fans have very mixed feelings on bringing Hue back in the fold, and if the end goal is to eventually promote him to head coach I dislike the move. However, bringing in someone the Bengals players all trust and someone who had great success in Cincinnati, its not a terrible idea. Marvin will get to focus on the defense and have someone he trusts on the sidelines on game day in case he needs to spend more time with the defense. It is almost as if they want him to serve more like the coach and Marvin as the defensive coordinator without the official titles. It will be interesting to see how this hire plays out and the effects that it will have but the bottom line is that Hue had great success in Cincinnati, why not try to find that spark this team needs.
The biggest reason the Bengals could still make the playoffs is their schedule. Right now it looks like the Chiefs, Patriots, Chargers, Steelers, and Texans are all sitting in pretty good for spots 1-5 in the AFC playoff picture. Which means there is one wild card spot up for grabs. In my opinion there are four teams including the Bengals that will be fighting for the last wild card spot. Those teams are the Bengals, the Ravens, the Titans, and the Colts. The Bengals and Colts both have much easier schedules remaining compared to the Titans and Ravens. The Ravens still have games against the Chiefs, Falcons, and Chargers. The Titans will still face the Redskins, Jaguars, Texans, and a red hot Colts team twice. Indianapolis has a chance to go 5-2 to close out the year which would leave them with a 9-7 record. Their two toughest games will be at the Texans, who they almost beat earlier in the year, and at the Jaguars, who they beat last week. Then we have the Bengals, who could also finish the year 5-2 to end up at 10-6 on the year.
Week 11: @ Ravens – A winnable game for Cincinnati. They have a history of doing very well against the Ravens, and it is a Ravens team that could see either a rookie or Robert Griffin III starting at quarterback. Baltimore has a tough defense but I think Cincinnati wins this game.
Week 12: Browns – At home against the Browns with their old head coach on the Bengals sideline, the Browns will make it tough but the Bengals should walk away with the win.
Week 13: Broncos – The Broncos have a tough defense but a weak quarterback to lead their offense. As long as the Bengals keep Von Miller off of Andy Dalton this is another game the Bengals should win.
Week 14: @ Chargers – A possible three game win streak will see its end in LA. The Chargers are red hot right now with only two losses. I think the Bengals will fly home with a loss.
Week 15: Raiders – The Raiders look like the favorites to finish the season with the first overall pick in next years draft and are clearly building for the future. The Bengals get back in the win column.
Week 16: @ Browns – Winning on the road in Cleveland will be tougher than in Cincinnati but the Bengals still have experience on their side. The Bengals should sneak out with a close win.
Week 17: @ Steelers – The Bengals aren’t beating the Steelers on the road. They can’t even beat them at home. The Bengals end the year with a loss.
This would put the Bengals at 10-6 and in a prime spot to sneak into the playoffs. Based off of my projections I have the four teams projected to finish as so…
Colts 9-7 (Colts hold tiebreaker in this scenario)
As I mentioned the Ravens have a tough second half schedule and I think their final record will suffer for it. The Bengals can’t afford anything less than a 10 win season with how close this wild card race could be. With Cincinnati’s remaining schedule, a 10-6 finish is still on the table.
No one is saying it will be easy, but the sky is not quite falling just yet for this team. With a good blend of veterans and youth, and a fresh coaching change, the Bengals still have the talent to be a playoff team. I would love to hear your thoughts on the Bengals playoff outlook. Be sure to follow me on twitter @Pierson242FF. Who dey!