Any football schmuck can follow the straight-line logic that a team’s early season success bodes well for their playoff hopes. But there’s an extra zany piece to the Cincinnati Bengals’ start to the 2021 season.
The Bengals are 3-1. That alone should be worth celebrating.
Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic also keenly pointed out that Cincinnati’s record could be a good sign for a historical reason:
To sum it up: the Bengals are currently 3-1 (just saying that brings such joy). Last year, the teams that started 3-1 made the playoffs. One of those teams eventually won the Super Bowl.
Is it extrapolation to say the Cincinnati Bengals will now win the Super Bowl in 2021? 100 percent.
But the Bengals have surprised most with an exciting comeback win over Jacksonville in Week 4 and a dominant win over Pittsburgh the week prior. Without jinxing it, it almost seems like they have found their season form.
Burrow is healthy and playing like the quarterback Cincinnati needs him to be. Ja’Marr Chase, against preseason odds, is also playing like the wide receiver Cincinnati needs him to be. And overachieving, at that.
In Tee Higgins’ absence, Tyler Boyd has valiantly stepped up, with tight end C.J. Uzomah enjoying a monster game (and fantasy scoring) against the Jaguars and alternate WRs Auden Tate and Trenton Irwin also making small but mighty contributions.
On the defensive side, the Bengals faltered against an aggressive Trevor Lawrence-led offense, but prior to Week 4, Cincinnati has allowed just 18 points per game, 317 yards through the air, and 78.3 yards on the ground on average. Those numbers place the Bengals in the top ten of each of those categories.
So far, we’ve already told you what you know. The Bengals are doing well, and the world isn’t ending.
To push the Bengals-playoffs narrative just an inch ahead, the analytical folks at NFL got down and dirty, calculating any given team’s necessary win-loss record to make the playoffs.
Could the Cincinnati Bengals make it to the playoffs in 2021?
We’re not going to lie — it’s kind of….obvious. The NFL created a chart that shows the percentage of teams that can expect to make the playoffs, win the division, or earn the No. 1 seed at each record.
Teams that win all 17 games unsurprisingly win all three. Teams that lose all 17 — well, you get the picture.
The interesting tidbits can be found in the middle of the chart, which is probably where the Bengals will place.
Teams that win 10 games have a 91 percent chance of making the playoffs, but after that there’s a steep drop off: those that win nine have a 50 percent chance, those that win eight have an 11 percent chance, and those that win seven have a one percent chance. Anything below seven will give you a less than one percent chance.
It’s a good thing the Bengals already have nearly half of seven wins this early in the season, and maybe making the playoffs shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. Winning the division or earning the No. 1 seed are also possibilities, albeit much more difficult to determine given the varying strengths of each division.
In the AFC North, Cincinnati is currently tied with the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns for first, while the Pittsburgh Steelers sit in last. Really, who would have predicted that?
Given the fickle nature of NFL football, we’re not going to guess who tops the division or play the numbers game at all. Head to FiveThirtyEight instead for data crunching.
We will, however, offer our cautiously optimistic opinion that the Bengals no longer look like the 4-11-1 team from last year. They’ve already secured three victories, but more important, they’ve played like a good all-around team through four weeks of the season.
Still, take any early playoff predictions with a grain of salt. By NFL’s metric, the Kansas City Chiefs, who are currently 2-2, have a worse chance of making the playoffs than the Bengals. Do all the math you want, but that still won’t quite add up.