A title is everything. For stories, articles, job positions, and football. So when you have a team that is continually successful in the regular season, you expect them to have a title to go along with it.
Enter the Cincinnati Bengals.
This is a team that has been in the playoffs five years running. In that time (and the previous 21 years) they have exactly zero playoff wins. Every single team in the NFL has a more current playoff win than the Bengals. Yes, including the Browns. Let that sink in.
Cleveland, the Titans, Jacksonville.. all these teams have a more recent playoff win than Cincinnati. However, the Bengals have been the AFC North Champions more often than not, as of late. They’re still a sub .500 team overall, and own the head to head record against exactly ONE team in their division (Cleveland.. shocker, right?), even being on a 5 game streak against the Ravens. (Circle of life in the North.. Bengals beat the Ravens, Ravens beat the Steelers, Steelers beat the Bengals.. everybody beats the Browns.)
Let’s get back on track. The Bengals have gone to the wild card in 5 consecutive seasons. The closest they have come to winning in the wild card was 2015, where they had the game against the Steelers won, until a costly fumble caused tempers to flare, penalties to fly, and the Steelers came out on top in the final seconds. Their last win was in 1991.
So what is the problem in Cincinnati?
It isn’t just the playoffs, which they have a 5-14 record over the course of history. It’s also primetime of any sort. It seems that if the lights get a little too bright, they get lost in the shine.
Before last year, a lot of fans, myself included, blamed Andy Dalton for more recent failures. However, this year, Dalton missed the playoffs, and McCarron took his place. The results were the same. Now, I believe that it is purely discipline, based off of what transpired at the end of the game this year. The talent is there, clearly, given their success in the regular season, and against year-in-and-year-out contenders such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The play-calling has been there, for the same reason. So lack of discipline seems to be the cause. The penalties, and the failure to succeed under primetime pressure, and therefore the losses at night, can all be attributed to one thing. Lack of discipline.
Quick Look at 2016:
In 2016, the Bengals have seemed to take a step back, losing Hue as an OC, losing their #2 and #3 options at WR, as well as Reggie Nelson, who is an impact player. I do believe that the streak of failure continues this year, and they take a step back in the regular season as well. The homer in me would also be so bold as to predict that the streak against Baltimore ends, and they split the series, winning in Cincinnati on New Year’s Day. A title in Cincinnati seems a lot longer off than it did last year at this time.
Credit: Michael Telford, Original article on NFL Chalk Talk