Former Steelers offensive lineman, two time Super Bowl champion, and current NFL Network analyst Max Starks became the latest “expert” to dismiss the 2019 Bengals on Thursday. He called the AFC North a “three dog race” without Cincinnati involved.
This take is hardly revolutionary. However, it is just flat wrong. It has been pointed out by a few folks that the Bengals do have a fair amount of talent on their roster and a new fresh faced young head coach to work with that talent.
As we saw with a team like the Bears last year, that can carry you a long way. Still, even if Cincinnati turns out to be the doormat most people expect and the other three teams fight for playoff spots, the Bengals may very well decide the divison.
The most important thing in any team sport is beating the teams you are “supposed’ to beat. On paper, the Bengals fit that bill for the Steelers, Browns, and Ravens in 2019. The thing is, even bad teams in the NFL rarely lose all six divison games in a season.
Arizona had the worst record in the league in 2018. They still managed to win a pair of division games. In the AFC West last year, the Chiefs and Chargers split their head to head meetings and finished with matching 12-4 records. The Chargers dropped a game to the six win Broncos, the Chiefs didn’t. Thus, the Chiefs got to stay home on divisional playoff weekend and won. The Chargers went to New England and got pile driven by the eventual Super Bowl champs.
The Bengals and their fans should be thinking about much more than playing spoiler this year. Still, most divison races in the NFL are tight and often come down to who stubs their toe against the cellar dwellers. No matter how the season turns out, the national media can sleep on the Bengals all it wants, there are no consequences for them. However, the rest of the AFC North better not. Otherwise, their seasons will end early.