There is currently a giant asterisk on the Cincinnati Bengals’ 2021 season: The team is good.*
*But the team also can play very, very poorly at times and may miss the playoffs.
If Cincinnati want a better shot of making it to the postseason, there is one glaring problem that the team needs to address immediately.
Kristopher Knox at Bleacher Report revealed a list of what each NFL playoff-contender needs to improve upon before the postseason, and for Cincinnati, the problem is — unsurprisingly — turnovers.
"We’re diving into advanced statistics and specific situations for many of the issues on this list, but things are a little different with the Cincinnati Bengals. They simply need to do a better job of stressing ball security down the stretch…If Burrow and Co. can make a concerted effort to not give away the football, they can regain control of the AFC North. If they don’t, they’re probably going to be sitting at home in January."
First off, it’s a welcome sight to see news outlets finally recognizing the Bengals as a legitimate playoff contender in 2021.
That being said, Knox cracks open a huge predicament in the Bengals offense that may not have any easy solutions.
Cincinnati Bengals are hurting badly from Joe Burrow’s turnover-prone play
The Bengals have lost four of their last six games, and one commonality in all their losses has been turnovers.
It doesn’t take a data analyst to understand how turnovers have a negative correlation on a team’s chances of winning any given game. Throw a pick, lose possession, and team morale takes a deep dive.
Even in Cincinnati’s victories, the Bengals still failed to protect the football. In their seven wins, they turned over the ball five times. In their six losses, they turned over the ball a whopping 16 times.
Throughout the entire season, Cincinnati have only had two completely clean games despite Joe Burrow continuing to play at an elite level.
Burrow leads the league with 14 interceptions in 2021, yet he also currently records a passer rating of 100.6. He’s thrown nearly twice as many touchdowns (25) as interceptions, but if Cincinnati can figure out a way to decrease his picks just a smidge, the Bengals would benefit by a landslide.
No one will question Burrow’s chemistry with his wide receivers or his ability to methodically drive down the field, but his turnover-prone play has drawn deserved scrutiny. If the Bengals clean up their act, they could be smooth-sailing into the playoffs by January.