Should Level of Competition Concern Bengals?

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 16: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won 27-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

After six games the Bengals have already matched their win total from last season. They  are riding a three-game win streak and currently trail the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have both made relatively smooth transitions from college to professional football and overall the team has been performing well against their opponents. Everything seems to be falling into place, right?

Well, one would think so. However, there are critics around the league who believe that the Bengals have played the way they have due to the level of competition that they have squared-off against. Through the first six weeks of the season Bengals opponents are a combined 13-21. But is that something that the Bengals should be concerned with?

It isn't hard to dispute that the Bengals have endured a relatively "easy" road to their early season success. Hell, some might even argue that the Bengals should be undefeated. But that's not the case. It hasn't always been smooth sailing as three of their four victories have been of the comeback variety. The Bengals have had their share of tough opponents and easier opponents, so to say.

Against the Buffalo Bills the Bengals battled one of the top offenses in the league. Going into the week four match-up the Bengals were clearly the underdogs after the Bills handed the "mighty" New England Patriots a loss. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked like an unstoppable force that was ready to plow over the Cincinnati defense. During this showdown against the Bills the Bengals were down by 14 points at halftime. It took a second half surge and fourth quarter comeback for the Bengals to come out victorious. The Bengals defense decided to show up in the second half and held Buffalo to merely a field goal. If Cincinnati's defense performance hadn't improved in the second half the Bengals would have been handed another loss.

The previous week the Bengals endured a hard fought battle against Alex Smith and the 49ers. San Francisco has one of the better defenses in the league and Smith has been performing better than anticipated. This game displayed what two of the top defenses had to offer. At halftime the only scoring that happened was a field goal by Mike Nugent. San Francisco had to battle just to put up any points. And a crucial fourth quarter interception thrown by Andy Dalton ultimately cost the Bengals the chance at coming out victorious.

"San Fran has a great record, Buffalo has a great record," S Chris Crocker said. "It really doesn't matter who you play."

Buffalo and San Francisco are a combined 9-3. Both of those games were very close in the end. The Browns, Broncos, Jaguars, and Colts are a combined 4-18. And the Bengals went 3-1 in those four games. The only loss came against Denver. 

It's not as if the Bengals have been blown out when they lose. In their two losses the Bengals have lost by a combined seven points. But they haven't really blown out anyone up to this point either. In their last two games the Bengals have faced off against teams that are a combined 1-11. They won both of those games by a combined 20 points.

The level of competition hasn't necessarily been top-notch, but that shouldn't matter. At this point it doesn't matter how good an opponent is, a win is a win. As long as the Bengals ignore the critics and non-believers they could very well set themselves up for an impressive season. 

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