The Cincinnati Bengals are 16-31 against teams with a .500 record or better; a look at the Bengals record since 2003

I brought the topic up on Tuesday, during a statistical revelation of sorts, wondering about the Bengals' record against their competition. I wanted to know how the Bengals did against teams, based on their opponent's record when they met. In other words, how did the Bengals do against teams they were expected to beat. How did they do against better competition; all of which is determined by the record. For example:

Note the record of the opposing team at the time the Bengals met them. Further to the right, I have the Bengals record and the result of the game. This is what I'm figuring out today. It's an inexact science. Things like a team playing in a terrible division, or sporting an incredibly weak schedule, isn't taken into account.

I also decided to chart only the Marvin Lewis era; makes the most sense to me. I'm not doing this to find an antagonist. Often I use this timeline because I believe that the Lewis era should have its own place, separated from the decade before he was hired. You could have an overlord timeline, then separate it into two overlord sub-timelines; the Lewis era being one of them. Statistically speaking, during Mike Brown's tenure as owner, the Bengals never had a stretch of .500 football or better for four consecutive seasons until Lewis arrived. As dreary as it might sound right now, comparatively speaking, the Bengals record since Lewis arrived is much better. That's just my opinion though. If anyone wants to continues what I started, they're more than welcome.

What I did learn (well, maybe confirmed) is that the Bengals performed poorly against better competition -- which includes the 2005 season. The Bengals were 2-4 against teams with a .500 record or better in 2005. I also wanted to point out that I am separating the difference between the record when teams met, and the record at the end of the year. In fact, I'm completely ditching records at the end of the year. In my opinion, the two are vastly different. Some teams go through trends and streaks. A record at the end of the year, while obviously the most important stat in football, encompasses an entire season whereas the record at the time the Bengals met their opponents, better illustrates, albeit limitedly, how the team is playing at the time. Furthermore, you know it, I know it, teams rarely carry the same characteristics and momentum through 17 weeks in an NFL season. Some start strong, others finish strong.

Since 2003, the Bengals are 16-31 (.340) against teams with a winning percentage of .500 or better when both teams meet; not the opponent's record at the end of the season. For example, though the Bills were 2-2 in 2003 (which qualifies as .500 or better in this discussion) when the Bengals played them, Buffalo finished the season 6-10. If you're willing enough to subtract the 1-9 season against .500 or better teams in 2008, the Bengals are 15-22. A year-by-year breakdown of the team's record against .500 or better teams (when the Bengals met them) since 2003.

Season Record
2003 3-4
2004 3-4
2005 2-4
2006 4-6
2007 3-4
2008 1-9
  16-31

In the words of Mr. Obvious, the Bengals haven't played well against teams that field a winning record. In fact, the Bengals typically struggle against good teams. In the 37 games against playoff teams they've played since 2003, the Bengals have a .297 winning percentage (11-26).

There was another curiosity which needs be broken down into two parts. How did Cincinnati perform against teams with a better record, and how did they perform against teams with a worse record? This compares to the Bengals record when the two teams meet. In the case of teams with a worse record than Cincinnati, it shows what the Bengals do in games that "they should win". In the case of teams with a better record than Cincinnati, it shows how the Bengals stack up against teams that should beat them -- in other words, do the Bengals perform better against better competition?

No.

Much like their performances against teams with a .500 record or better, the Bengals are 17-31-1 (.357) against teams that have a better record than the Bengals at the time the two teams meet. You have to go all the way back to Marvin Lewis' rookie season in which the Bengals had a winning percentage against teams with a better record. Notably, they beat 5-1 Seattle and 9-0 Kansas City. Again, if you're willing to call 2008 an aberration year and totally remove it from the discussion (and why not? In 14 games the Bengals had a worse record), the Bengals are 14-20 (.412).

Season Record
2003 4-3
2004 4-5
2005 0-1
2006 3-4
2007 3-7
2008 3-11-1
  17-31-1

One of the more telling signs of a good team, other than beating the hell out of the competition, is how teams do against opponents that they should beat. Record-wise, how do the Bengals stack up against teams with an inferior record? In truth, that's the majority of their wins. In only one season since 2003 do the Bengals have a losing record against teams with a worse record than Cincinnati -- ironically, it's the same season in which the Bengals sported a winning record against teams with a .500 or better record. That's one of those statistical occurrences in which stats can mind-hump you into a migraine.

Season Record
2003 4-5
2004 4-3
2005 11-4
2006 5-4
2007 4-2
2008 1-0
  29-18

In quick statistical summary.

Record against teams with a .500 record or better: 16-31 (.340)
Record against teams with a better record than the Bengals: 17-31-1 (.357)
Record against teams with a worse record than the Bengals: 29-18 (.617)

I know the reaction. I wasn't all that surprised either. The Bengals beat teams that they should beat, comparatively speaking of corresponding records. Against winning teams and teams that should beat the Bengals, mostly do beat the Bengals.

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