The lack of Cincinnati Bengals competitiveness with the two top organizations in the AFC North should be a growing concern.
One of the most important elements of being a good team in the NFL is playing well within your division. With Baker Mayfield, it is hard to know what to expect from the Browns year to year. Thus, for the Cincinnati Bengals, the path to division success is sure to go through the Steelers and Ravens.
There is nothing easy about playing two of the most stable and well-run organizations in football four times a year, but Cincinnati is far from the only team that plays in a tough division. It is part of the equation for many NFL teams.
A closer look at the numbers
The Bengals have lost 19 of their last 22 games with the Steelers and four of their last five games with Baltimore. Cincinnati has yet to beat a Ravens team that has Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Jackson has not looked as sharp this year as he did during last year’s MVP season, but he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Will the Steelers pull back when Ben Roethlisberger retires? Maybe, but they were still a .500 team that beat the Bengals twice last year without Roethlisberger. With these two teams making up 25 percent of Cincinnati’s schedule every year, nothing in these two paragraphs is good news.
Even Joe Burrow hasn’t helped
In a general sense, rookie quarterback Joe Burrow has made the Bengals a more competitive team this year. However, that cannot be said when it comes to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Zac Taylor’s squad has played one game against each team so far this year. They are on the wrong end of a 63-13 combined score.
This isn’t just a Burrow problem or just an offensive line problem. When things are this lopsided, everyone in the organization is at fault. Divison games are critical and factor heavily in tie-breaker scenarios.
There is no reason for Bengals fans or anyone else to bank on Baltimore or Pittsburgh suddenly becoming bad teams. They never are, even when they should be. It won’t be easy to do, but until the Bengals play these two teams better, there will be a ceiling on the team’s improvement.