The Cincinnati Bengals have looked like a different team this year. The culture feels different. As much as we are not surprised by the 0-3 start, this team has been fairly scrappy.
So far, we have seen them go toe to toe with the Seahawks in one of the toughest NFL stadiums to play in for road teams, a weird blowout loss at the home opener to a 49ers team who remains undefeated through three weeks, and a tough comeback loss to the Bills who also remain undefeated. Their three opponents are a combined 8-1 (5-1 against non-Bengals opponents).
The Good: John Ross, Tyler Boyd, Middling Division
John Ross, the ninth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, has finally been able to showcase why the Bengals were so high on him. Ross is currently third among all wide receivers with 292 receiving yards.
Tyler Boyd is following is solid 2018 season well, tallying the third most receptions through the first three games. These two are one of few bright spots for the Bengals. A.J. Green will reenter the fold at some point too.
The best news for the Bengals is that the AFC North is proving to be not as good as many preseason projections had it. The Steelers are also sitting with an 0-3 record and have lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season. The underwhelming Browns sit at 1-2. As bad as things could get for the Bengals this year, they could have some competition for last place in the division. Also, if Cincinnati can somehow manage to string a few wins together, they would be in the thick of the AFC wildcard race.
The Bad: The Defense
Despite new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s best efforts, the Bengals defense has given up the sixth most yards per game in the league and the sixth most points per game. The Bengals are 23rd in sacks. For the few bright spots on the Bengals offense, the defense has even fewer. It is simply a below average defense. The glass half full approach is that the Seahawks, 49ers, and Bills offenses rank ninth, fourth, and eighth respectively. The Cincinnati defense is also tied for 29th in turnover differential through three weeks. Not ideal.
The Ugly: Run Game, Offensive Line
The Bengals run game has not worked…at all. Entering Week 4, Cincinnati is sitting dead last in rushing yards per game. It hasn’t helped that they have been playing from behind in just about all 12 quarters of football so far. However, they also rank dead last in rush yards per attempt at 2.4 yards per carry. Yikes. That stat isn’t just a sign of playing from behind in three games but also poor run blocking by the offensive line. Joe Mixon was able to find running lanes late in the Buffalo game. So, perhaps things are starting to turn. Regardless, this is a major concern.
The offensive line hasn’t just been bad in the run game. They have also allowed Andy Dalton to be sacked 11 times through three games, which is tied for fourth most. Again, we will need to see more games to understand this stat. Playing from behind a lot means that the Bengals have passed on 72.92% of their offensive plays (second most around the league).
Based on the Bengals draft history, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them take an offensive linemen with their presumably early first rounder in 2020.
As predictable as the 0-3 start was for the Bengals, there is a lot more football to be played and anything can happen.
(All stats from teamrankings.com)