Based on the Cincinnati Bengals’ poor start this season, everyone seems to be assuming the Bengals are heading toward a losing record this year. I think that’s so, but it doesn’t mean they can’t surprise a superior team on any given day – especially one with the Green Bay Packers’ horrendous injury situation.
It’s been a sudden fall for Cincinnati. From 2011 through 2015 – not that long ago – the Bengals made the playoffs five straight years. In 2015, they finished 12-4. But they started out with eight straight wins – beating the likes of the Chiefs, Seahawks, and Steelers. The Steelers got revenge in the Wild Card game, winning by an 18-16 score.
Quarterback Andy Dalton’s numbers were very good in 2015. Though he missed three games due to injury, his completion percentage was 66 percent, he had 25 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, and his passer rating was a sterling 106.2.
Though 2016 was a down year for the Bengals, who finished 6-9, we know that can happen when your star receiver misses 10 games. A.J. Green is healthy now, and he has 10 catches for 141 yards in the first two games.
It’s Dalton who has shouldered most of the blame for an offense that has scored but three field goals to date. His completion percentage is a lowly 54.5, he’s thrown four interceptions, and his passer rating is only 47.2. Not much has gone right for Dalton. He’s been sacked eight times, he’s converted only eight of 28 third downs, and his team has six turnovers, while causing only one.
It would be premature, however, to write off the six-year veteran quarterback, who is not yet 30 years old.
Defensively, though the Bengals have pretty much a no-name defense, they have yielded just 33 points, something the Packers were unable to do. Against Houston, Cincinnati had the ball with 1:50 left in the game and down by only four points, but their five-play drive ended by giving the ball up on downs.
If Green Bay needs any further incentive, the Packers all-time record against Cincinnati is five wins and seven losses – a rarity. Plus, the Bengals have won the last three matchups, in 2005, 2009 and 2013.
Finally, it’s one of those years that we need to look at injury reports of the two teams – though they can’t always be trusted – to get a good assessment of who has the advantage. The Packers have 12 on the list, including these impact players who as of Saturday were all listed as doubtful: David Bakhtiari, Kentrell Brice, Randall Cobb, Mike Daniels, Davon House, Nick Perry, and Jake Ryan. This might be even worse than a week ago.
The Bengals list 10 injured players, with tight end Tyler Eifert, guard Trey Hopkins, and speedy receiver John Ross declared out. It’s going to be difficult for Dalton to turn things around without Eifert, a Pro-Bowler in 2015.