The Cincinnati Bengals, like all other NFL teams, have some question marks they need to answer this year. Unlike many other teams, answering those questions gives them a great shot to make the playoffs.
In 2017, the Cincinnati Bengals lost four games by one possession. Their record was 7-9, and last year’s wild-card teams (the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans) make it in with 9-7 records. A touchdown here or there and the team is back in the postseason.
Here are our calls for the four biggest issues the team must address to go playoff-ing.
Four Questions That the Cincinnati Bengals Need to Answer This Year
Will the offensive line improve enough? We’ve been beating this drum more than Andrew Neiman in the movie Whiplash. Many times over the last few years, the Bengals’ O-Line performances has left their fans sounding like … well, Terence Fletcher in the movie Whiplash (Editor’s Note: Look it up on YouTube, but NSFW). We talked a few weeks ago about the team’s recent offensive struggles. Frank Pollack taking over as line coach is definitely a breath of fresh air. Acquiring Cordy Glenn and losing Russell Bodine are steps in the right direction. And each year, the Bengals have drafted or traded for more move-the-ball talent, so you’d think that would provide extra motivation for the big uglies. It’s not like their efforts at improvement would be in vain. As soon as the line gets going, so will the fireworks. This is the year for that to happen … right?
Will John Ross and Tyler Eifert stay healthy? These two have been bitten (well, chomped) by the health bug the last couple of years. The last time Eifert played close to a full year was 2015. That season, in 13 games, he caught 52 passes for 615 yards and 13 TDs. Ross is only in his second year, but his NFL-Combine-record 4.22 speed should keep DBs playing catch-up. Since they both represent different elements of the passing game, having them healthy and on the field gives the defense a lot more ground to cover. It also means those defenses can’t focus on shutting down the running game – which isn’t running on full batteries to begin with.
Who’s after Dalton if he gets hurt? While we’re on the topic of health, let’s address Andy Dalton’s. If he’s injured, the Cincinnati Bengals will be turning to journeyman Matt Barkley, Jeff Driskel (who spent last year on injured reserve), or rookie Logan Woodside. For his career, Barkley has completed almost 60% of his passes, but holds a TD-to-INT ratio of 8-18. Driskel and Woodside have as many pro passing attempts as noted German physicist Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (1821-1894). Hopefully, the offensive line can keep Dalton vertical.
Will the Bengals D generate more turnovers? Cincinnati only had 14 takeaways last year, including a measly 3 fumble recoveries. New DC Teryl Austin should change that. Last year with the Detroit Lions, his defensive squads tied for fourth in the NFL in interceptions (19) and forced fumbles (19).