Jan 5, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer before the AFC wild card playoff game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
In 2011, the largest knock on a very young Bengals team was that despite making the wild card round they did not beat a play-off caliber opponent during the season. This season it was largely felt that the Bengals made that next step through several statement wins and returning to the post season in back to back years for the first time in three decades. Taking nothing away from that accomplishment, the numbers suggest that perhaps the Bengals aren’t quiet as solidified as they would like to be.
To review, at the outset of the 2011 season, the Bengals strength of schedule was .472 and tied for 27th in the League with Washington and Pittsburgh. However, at the end of the season, their opponents’ records brought that strength of schedule up to .500; a fact largely ignored due to the lack of significant wins. But while the Bengals didn’t beat anyone who made the post season that year, they did play six play-off teams from the year prior and beat both that weren’t named Pittsburgh or Baltimore.
This year, the Bengals strength of schedule was .500 at the beginning of Week 1, leaving them picking up right where they left off: tied for 14th in the NFL, again with Pittsburgh. This time, when the season concluded, their strength of schedule had fallen to .432 – dead last at 32nd in the NFL! Again, Cincinnati beat two previous post-season level opponents as it had the year prior, but their victory over the Ravens doubled as one half of their signature “play-off caliber wins” of this season, despite it resembling more of an amped up preseason match than anything franchise defining. The only legitimate win over a play-off team from this season came against a young RGIII-led Washington in Week 3.