After losing to the Cowboys Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals fell to 0-2. It would seem lady luck has abandoned ship and put last year’s Super Bowl runner-up on notice that it might not be as easy as once thought. Building a perennial winner in the NFL is hard, which is why we see so much turnover of winning teams each year.
Everyone knows the odds of making the postseason aren’t great. Since the league expanded its playoff format to 14 teams, it seems harder to dig out of an 0-2 hole even with two extra spots and an extra game in the regular season. No team that’s begun the season 0-2 since 2020 has made the postseason. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but 16 teams have failed.
Too close for comfort
Last season the Bengals won five games by three points or less, with two of those victories during their run to the Super Bowl. Both of their losses in 2022 have been by three points. These were two games Cincy could’ve won and were expected to.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for opening the season 0-2. But one of the main culprits is one of the same issues they faced in ‘21. The protection of quarterback Joe Burrow is downright embarrassing. The amazing part is Cincinnati addressed this problem during the offseason by “upgrading” the offensive line.
So far, those upgrades haven’t panned out. Burrow was sacked six times against Dallas in Week 2. The previous week, Pittsburgh got to Burrow seven times. Burrow was sacked the most in the league last season. He was dropped 51 times in the regular season and another 19 in four playoff games, including the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati’s overall record was 13-8 last year when factoring in the postseason. QBs that get sacked that much don’t usually make runs to the Super Bowl. Living on Burrow magically making something out of nothing isn’t a sustainable recipe for success.
Looking up at the lights
Burrow isn’t the first QB to be sacked 50-plus times in a season to make the playoffs. Russell Wilson was sacked 1 time in ‘18 and was able to lead Seattle to a playoff berth. Randall Cunningham was sacked 60 times during the ‘92 regular season with the Philadelphia Eagles. That team also made the playoffs winning 11 games that year. In ‘85, the Jets made the postseason after allowing 62 sacks on Ken O’Brien.
Making the playoffs isn’t impossible when your QB is sacked more than 50 times but going on a run and playing in the biggest game of the year is a different story. That’s what makes this Bengals team an outlier. If they do nothing else, they’ve got to improve at protecting Burrow. Because it probably won’t be the same outcome this season. Of course, that’s no secret, but as we’ve seen, it’s much easier said than done.
Don’t sleep on the schedule
Next on the schedule is the New York Jets. Luckily for Cincy, the Jets defense has just three sacks in their first two games. But the Jets did pull off a surprising victory over the Browns Sunday in a game nobody had them winning. Sounds like the same situation for Dallas heading into the Bengals game with Cooper Rush as QB1.
On paper, the Bengals should beat the Jets easily. But on paper and real life are two entirely different realms. Nobody thought Rush would play well enough for the Cowboys to beat the Bengals. Rush wasn’t spectacular, but he was steady and didn’t make any big mistakes. Dallas’ defense did the rest.
The Jets aren’t expected to do much this year, but with Zach Wilson out a couple more weeks, they’re allowing Joe Flacco to get his groove back. In their win over the Browns Sunday, old man Flacco threw 44 times for 307 yards and four touchdowns. He didn’t make the big mistake either. In the Jets’ Week 1 loss to the Ravens, Flacco dropped back to pass 59 times. Get ready for a shootout, Bengals fans.
If the Bengals are going to get on track anytime soon, it needs to happen in Week 3 against the Jets. The Miami Dolphins visit Cincy in Week 4, led by the league’s newest QB-WR power couple in Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill. Tua had six TD passes against the Ravens in their Week 2 matchup, out dueling Lamar Jackson.
It’s time for these Bengals to get focused and clean up the mistakes on the offensive line. If Cincy can’t fix that leaky offensive line, they could go back to the same ‘ol Bengals we’ve known for decades.