If you spend any time on social media right now, you may scroll across a sports account asking which winless NFL team will make the playoffs. This year those teams include the Dolphins, Steelers, Cardinals, Broncos, Redskins, Jets, and of course the Bengals.
Last year, the Houston Texans made the playoffs after starting 0-3, and in 2017 the Los Angeles Chargers managed to finish the season with a 9-7 record after starting 0-4. However, The Chargers missed the postseason due to tie breakers. Digging and early hole is never ideal, but it isn’t impossible to dig out of.
In a recent interview with Geoff Hobson the Bengals very own Sam Wyche pointed out that he started his 1st season as head coach 0-5 before it “clicked” and the Bengals finished that season by going 8-3 the rest of the way.
A team’s slow start isn’t always the best indicator of how their season can ultimately wind up. This is especially if you have a new head coach, new system, or injuries to key players early on in the season. Sound familiar?
If you’re somebody looking for a reason to keep cheering for your Bengals to win, and not quite ready to look forward to a high draft pick next season, allow me to lay out the most likely scenario for a winning season.
First, let’s lay out the projection schedule that results in a winning season. Then, we can break down the likelihood of actually attaining that outcome.
At Steelers W
Vs Cardinals W
At Ravens L
Vs Jaguars W
Rams (London) L
Vs Ravens L
At Raiders W
Vs Steelers W
Vs Jets W
At Browns W
Vs Patriots L
At Miami W
Vs Browns W
Final record 9-7
The Likely Losses
The Ravens are the current champions of the AFC North, already out to a healthy divison lead this year, and played the mighty Chiefs pretty tough last Sunday. The Bengals have done okay against Baltimore in recent years, especially if A.J. Green is in the lineup. However, the Ravens look like a very complete team this year.
An upset would give this projection some wiggle room, but for now, they get the wins. Both the Rams and the Patriots are obvious powerhouses. There is no shame in admitting that at this point, a victory against either of those teams would be considered a minor miracle based on what we have seen the past three weeks.
The Most Winnable Games
These are the Cardinals, Jets, and Dolphins. The fan bases of these three teams might be looking at the Bengals with their 0-3 record and hoping the same thing as Bengals fans. These are winnable games.
The Cardinals were the worst team in the league last year, and Bengals fans know how potentially little impact one draft class can have on improving a team with that many flaws. New head coach Adam Gase has been destroyed by injuries in his first year roaming the sidelines for the Jets. Miami is trusting the process. However, all three of these franchises have players who are grown men and have enough pride to steal a victory if the Bengals are not careful.
Here, we are talking about the Jaguars, Raiders, Steelers, and Browns. These matchups will define who the Cincinnati Bengals are by the end of the season. Each team has a respectable running back that could give the Bengals trouble, but they also have weaknesses of their own to be exploited.
Zac Taylor needs to have his offense ready to play wire to wire to overcome the relatively strong defenses of the Jaguars and Browns, while Lou Anarumo needs to be ready to take advantage of the inexperienced quarterback leading 3 of these teams.
The season has only begun, and one upset in either direction could reshape this projection immensely, but for now this is the road map. Handle division rivals and take advantage of inexperienced quarterbacks. The Bengals can reach nine wins this season simply by beating teams that have a combined grand total of three wins right now. Who Dey!