The Cincinnati Bengals dropped to 5-4 after the Houston Texans came into Paycor Stadium and escaped with a 30-27 victory. It was a huge win for the Texans and it's obvious that rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has them believing.
But this post isn't about Stroud and the Texans. We're here to talk about the Bengals who, for the third straight season, are sitting at 5-4. In 2021, they finished the year at 10-7 and that was good enough to win the AFC North. In 2022, they finished 12-4, which also was enough to get them the AFC North title.
This is something that some fans are keeping in mind despite the strange loss to the Texans. Jay Morrison of Pro Football Network also had some stats that might make those on the other side of the fence feel a bit better.
It's not over yet for the Bengals.
I understand the frustrations coming from Bengals fans. This team continues to start slow every year and while they ended up overcoming it in 2021 and 2022, this year feels different.
First and foremost, the AFC North is much tougher this year. Every team in the division has a winning record and all but the Bengals would be in the playoffs if the season ended right now. The Bengals are 0-2 in their division, 1-4 in their conference, and now their two best pass-rushers are injured. The defense has been good at forcing turnovers but the unit is allowing explosive plays and can't stop the run. That wasn't the case last year or the year before.
A lot of fans are also pointing out to how this team is losing, in particular, how they lost on Sunday. The offense was good for one drive and then was lackluster for most of the game. The defense got cooked by a rookie quarterback and a not-very-well-known receiver and running back. The defense also allowed 17 explosive plays against the Texans, which meant they HAD to force turnovers in order to stay in the game.
Relying on turnovers isn't a winning strategy. The Bengals defense has to be better at containing the opposing offense and not letting them do whatever they want down the field and in the run game.
The good news for the Bengals is that this team has been in this spot before and has persevered. Joe Burrow, despite the two interceptions he threw on Sunday, is playing some of his best football (Did you SEE that touchdown pass to Ja'Marr Chase?)
The Bengals have dug themselves into a pretty deep hole but it's not impossible for them to get out of it. They have a Thursday night game against the Ravens this week and if they win that, they're still in the thick of things in both the divisional race and wild card race. They only have one more game against an NFC team, so they have a chance to improve their paltry AFC record against the Browns, Chiefs, Colts, and Steelers (twice).
I'm not saying it will be easy for the Cincinnati Bengals to get to the top of the AFC North, especially after this loss, but other teams are going to beat up on each other. If the Bengals can keep winning and stay hot this time of year as they have been the past few seasons, an AFC North title is still doable and a wild card spot should be as well.