The Bengals aren’t in a bad spot entering the bye week

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow applauds during the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium.Burrowbrowns
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow applauds during the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium.Burrowbrowns /

The Cincinnati Bengals have heard it all, and deservedly so. The Bengals lost to the New York Jets in Week 8 (big yikes) and then fell to their AFC North rival, the Cleveland Browns in Week 9. Cincinnati went from being in first place in the AFC to being in last place in the AFC North within the span of two weeks. That’s bad, but the Bengals aren’t in as poor of a position as it may seem.

Cincinnati drafted its quarterback of the future in 2020. Joe Burrow tore his ACL in Week 11 of last year, so he’s yet to play in a full season. Paired with rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the duo is going to be special for years to come. Burrow has a 102.6 passer rating and has thrown for 2,497 yards and 20 touchdowns so far this year. As for Chase, he has 44 receptions for 835 yards and seven touchdowns.

It may not feel like it right now, but there’s still a lot of hope left for the season. The Bengals are entering their bye week with a 5-4 record and will travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders in Week 11. If there was a time for Cincinnati to pause and regroup, it’s now.

Let’s face it – the Bengals aren’t used to receiving this much attention. Cincinnati hasn’t been to the playoffs, or much less had a winning season since 2015 whenever the team finished with a 12-4 record. Zac Taylor and the Bengals know their capabilities but still aren’t used to being in the center of the spotlight because of their talent. It’s truly been a long time coming.

The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t in a bad spot

If you would’ve told Cincinnati fans two years ago that they’d be sitting above .500 entering Week 10 in 2021, they’d be ecstatic. It doesn’t feel that way now, but the Bengals have only played half of their season. Getting whooped at home against the Browns wasn’t the best way to enter Cincinnati’s week off, but now’s not the time to panic.

A bright spot over the past two weeks is that the Bengals are holding themselves accountable. There have been no fingers pointed at each other, but instead a mutual agreement that players and coaches alike have a lot to work on. Cincinnati knows what it needs to do entering the second half of the season. Taylor has cultivated an environment that encourages growth and that’s something that the franchise isn’t necessarily used to.

It might even be encouraging that the Bengals are in this position. In the past, what Cincinnati has done has been of little relevance. Now, people may be wondering what’s led to the downfall of the Bengals, but the truth is that there hasn’t been a downfall. Back-to-back losses, regardless of the opponent and final score, aren’t a viable reason to throw Cincinnati’s season away.

The Bengals aren’t worried. Following last Sunday’s loss, Burrow said:

Speaking of playoffs, Cincinnati hasn’t won a postseason game since the 1990 season. Yes, you read that right. Taylor, who’s in his third season as the head coach, is working to shift the culture. The Bengals may have clawed their way to the bye week, but now nothing else matters than the remaining eight games on their schedule.

As for the AFC North, Cincinnati will get to play both Pittsburgh (Week 12) and Baltimore (Week 16) at Paul Brown Stadium before traveling to Cleveland on Jan. 9. The Bengals will also host the Chargers, 49ers, and Chiefs. Their schedule isn’t easy by any means, but Cincinnati still has aspirations that are within reach.

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It may sting right now, but it’s better that the Bengals are working through these pains at this point in the season rather than later on in the year.