Bengals All-Time Lists

The greatest Cincinnati Bengals seasons of all-time

Eric Bruns
Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals / Michael Owens/GettyImages
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2. 1981 (12-4, 1st in the Central)

Every fan can probably guess what the two best seasons in Bengals history would be. There could be an argument for the 1981 season being Cincy’s best season but there is arguably one season that had the best all-around Bengals team.

1981 was actually a bit of a surprise season. In ’78 Ken Anderson broke a bone in his right hand, then his play was middling at best for the next couple of years to the point where the Bengals were looking to move on from Anderson. In 1979 with the third overall pick they took Jack Thompson from Washington State.

With hopes that Thompson would usher in a new era in Cincinnati, all hopes were dashed rather quickly. Injuries and poor play proved he was never going to be a starter. With 1981 rolling around Head Coach Forrest Gregg had to stick with Anderson.

In the Week 1 game against Seattle, Cincy fell behind 21-0 and Anderson was benched. The black and orange brigade came back and won 27-21. Something in this game sparked a fire under Anderson.

He would start every game from this point on and played his best season ever by a country mile with over 3,700 yards and 29 touchdown passes. Anderson earned MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, and Comeback Player of the Year.

Ken Anderson took this team all the way to their first Super Bowl appearance. The reason this season comes in at two and not one is that our boys had a little bit of luck getting to Super Bowl XVI.

The Chargers were the best team in the AFC. They had one of the most potent offenses in the league. However, the weather was not on their side. In the divisional round the Chargers beat the Dolphins in an overtime win in what is considered one of the greatest NFL games ever played.

The weather and high emotions of the win in Miami took a toll on the Chargers, then they came to Cincinnati to play in the Freezer Bowl.

Given that they weren’t used to the punishing cold, Cincy rolled to a 27-7 victory. If this confluence of events and weather had not happened, it might’ve been a Chargers/49ers Super Bowl. A little luck never hurts.

1. 1988 (12-4, 1st in the AFC Central)

If you asked 1,000 Bengals fans what the best team ever in the black and orange was, over 900 of them would answer the 1988 team. Boomer Esiason is a big reason as to why this team was so good, with over 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns and earning a first team all-pro, Pro Bowl, and NFL MVP.

Icky Woods had over 1,000 yards rushing. Eddie Brown had over 1,200 yards receiving. It’s easily one of the best offenses the black and orange has ever seen.

It’s difficult to go undefeated in professional sports. Only one team has ever done it in the Super Bowl era. This Bengals team had that potential, they could beat any team in the NFL in 1988. Of course, on any given Sunday anyone can win.


Even our own Leigh Oleszczak would agree that this is the best season the Bengals ever had, ranking them at number one came down to a couple of things. First, this is one of the most complete teams they ever had. As stated before their offense was potent, and their defense was decent but good enough to win a Super Bowl.

Two, this is possibly the closest they came to winning the Super Bowl, leading 13-6 going into the fourth quarter. After a San Francisco touchdown and a field goal by Cincy, it was 16-13 with just over three minutes to play.

Every Bengals fan knows what is next -- Joe Cool drove 92 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown with 34 seconds remaining. However, earlier in the game just before the Jerry Rice touchdown to give the 49ers 13 points, Lewis Billups dropped an almost interception.

Who knows what that pick could’ve done, but potentially it kept momentum in Cincy’s hands. It’s the closest our Bengals ever came to winning the ultimate prize and it is why this is the best season the Bengals ever had.

Next. All-Time Leaders in Passing Yards. dark

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