The Cincinnati Bengals have felt "off" this year, even before Joe Burrow went down in Week 11. The Bengals just didn't feel like the same force that they were over the past two years and now that Burrow is done for the year, it'd take one heck of a run for this team to make the playoffs.
After watching the Bengals in their first game without Burrow, yeah, that's going to have to be one heck of a run for this team to make a playoff push. The offense was lackluster, the run game could barely muster up anything, and the defense allowed the Steelers to have their best offensive performance in 59 games. Not good.
That's not stopping Zac Taylor from believing in his guys though.
Zac Taylor is excited to see what the Bengals can do in the final six weeks of the 2023 season.
I know that Taylor has to say things like this but this team does not look like the kind of group that's going to persevere and salvage the season. The offense had their fair share of issues even with Burrow at the helm so just imagine how much bleaker it looks without him taking the snaps. This is usually how it goes for teams with franchise quarterbacks; when their starter goes down, the season is lost at that point.
Maybe losing Burrow wouldn't be as big of a deal if the Bengals had anything resembling a run game but they don't. They tallied 25 measly yards on the ground in their last game against a Steelers defense that hasn't even been all that good against the run.
The defense had been a strength of the team over the past two years but that has not been the case this year. Sure, they force turnovers, but they also have been prone to allowing far too many explosive plays.
Not to mention the run defense has been terrible, allowing the Steelers to gash them on the ground on Sunday. They've been bad against the run all season but during the win streak, the Bengals were able to get a decent enough lead that teams had to throw the ball more, which worked in the defense's favor.
Look, I get that the Bengals are in a tough spot since they don't have their starting quarterback moving forward. I understand that Taylor has to be optimistic because if he wasn't, he'd be a terrible head coach.
At this point, however, the fans know what to expect from this team the rest of the way despite what Taylor says. They'll win maybe one or two more games, finish last in the division, and land a top-15 (maybe even top-10) pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
The last two things I mentioned will help this team get back to being a Super Bowl contender in 2024, as they'll have an easier schedule and a top-tier player who can help them compete for their first-ever Lombardi Trophy.