Bengals Preview: Where 5.8 Percent And .500 Meet Somewhere In The Middle

Andy Lyons

The Cincinnati Bengals have a 5.8 percent shot, based on historical evidence, of making the postseason this year. But it starts with a win this Sunday against the New York Giants.

Emotionally our collective hearts, both devastated and crushed, pessimistically dictate depression, following a postseason berth in 2011 with a 3-5 start the following year. Though some will draw parallel conclusions to 2010, the greatest being our supreme disappointment, the most-obvious follow-up campaign draws from high expectations that were sent through the blender shaped with helicopter blades.

But then it's not entirely game-over just yet.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since 1990, seven of the 121 teams whom have started a season 3-5 reached the postseason. So the optimistic of optimists can hang on by the 5.8 percent thread that's mathematically available to them.

For the rest of us, it time to upload program "Wreck Your Season, 2012"; upsetting the system, to bring down the man with random spikes inside the otherwise stabilized current of NFL consistency. Essentially it means that the Cincinnati Bengals can revert to a more relaxed atmosphere without postseason obligations, riding one solitary game plan: To severely punish the opposing team's playoff chances. It's when they're at their most comfortable anyway.

[It's also the point in the season where the Bengals finally start clicking, generating some "hope" that next year is going to be great. Well, it's an odd-numbered year, so we're probably bound for the Super Bowl anyway]

END THE STREAK, START THE WINNING

Cincinnati is currently riding a four-game losing streak; only the fourth four-game losing streak during the Marvin Lewis era. More appropriately, it's the fourth year with a four-game losing streak over the past six seasons, starting in 2007 when the Bengals started 1-4 (won the regular season opener against Baltimore and lost four straight). Yet when the Bengals finally snapped the streak, they finished that year at 6-5.

Not that it translated. Cincinnati began the following year in 2008 with a bloody nose and a will-he or won't-he question surrounding Carson Palmer's elbow, hurt against the New York Giants. Ultimately the Bengals lost their first eight games that season. But again, when the streak was snapped, Cincinnati finished the season 4-3-1.

Then came 2010 with the epic 10-game losing streak. After it was snapped (thanks for sucking, Cleveland), the Bengals closed out the season 2-1 -- largely because they took a risk on Jerome Simpson and made Andre Caldwell a wide out, as opposed to a slot receiver.

End the winning streak, start the winning. Something else for the 5.8 percent. Yet based on this, if the Bengals beat the Giants, they should finished the season at 8-8.

GIANTS COULD BE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE BYE

While reacting to A.J. Green's reasonably honest perspective that New York's defense has holes in it, a series of defensive players responded publicly. Safety Antrel Rolle said:

"I think every defense has holes in it. If our defense has holes in it, then he shouldn't have a problem exploiting it. ... The game has to be played on Sunday and we just try and make sure we take our best approach out there come Sunday and go into our bye 7-3."

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said:

"It is what it is and everybody has their own opinions about our defense and it is what it is. Come Sunday, all we're going to do is play football before our bye week."

Context is everything; as will a historic understanding of one's personality. But do you get the feeling while reading those quotes that the Giants are ready for a break? During Wednesday's press conference, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin told the media that his team will focus on the Bengals and not the Week 11 Bye Week that comes after this Sunday.

"I've called upon them to be pros, to focus. I'll take care of everything next week for them. They don't have to worry about that. What they have to worry about is the Cincinnati Bengals."

ARE WE LOOKING AT AN UPSET

Aaron Schatz with Football Outsiders places the New York Giants on Upset Watch for this weekend. Keep in mind though, Schatz's point really doesn't have anything with what the Bengals are doing; rather a cyclical trend that the Giants stink at midseason.

The Giants have gone in the tank at midseason every year since 2006 -- except for 2009, when they went in the tank at the start of October instead. Yes, twice the Giants made up for it by getting their collective act together by late December and going on a Super Bowl run. But they also missed the playoffs twice during that period.

...

The Bengals have the home-field advantage in this game, but otherwise they don't seem to present the Giants with a particularly tough opponent. Cincinnati ranks just 24th in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. In fact, this game is an example of how the Giants won't have to deal with one of the typical reasons for their second-half collapses: strength of schedule.

Ouch, Aaron. Not that he's wrong. But ouch all the same.

MATCH-UP OF THE GAME

You saw it last weekend. The Denver Broncos dropped Andy Dalton five times, the second-most quarterback sacks recorded against the Bengals this season. There's a combination of reasons. The uninitiated blame the offensive line whereas others focus directly at Andy Dalton either holding onto the football too long or bailing out of the pocket, despite the protection being solid.

Everyone is right of course.

In order to present perfection in pass protection, all five offensive linemen mustn't make an error. No pressure. Additionally awareness needs to be at its highest, preparing for stunts and blitzes; which also includes running backs making the proper presnap reads. And that's after Andy Dalton has read the defense, knowing where the pressure will come from, adjusting the routes and hot reads while judging if the team is facing a numbers disadvantage.

Everyone involved in the pass protection scheme, indirectly including Andy Dalton's ability to release the football and decipher the origins of the pressure, will have their work cut out for them. The New York Giants are ranked No. 3 in the NFL with 25 quarterback sacks, led by Jason Pierre-Paul with 6.5 sacks and followed by Osi Umenyiora (4.0), Linval Joseph (4.0) and Justin Tuck (3.0). Andrew Whitworth tells Bengals.com:

"Osi is really fast, a little quicker guy. Pierre-Paul is just a bigger specimen who is athletic. Kind of along the lines of Carlos Dunlap," Whitworth says. "A bigger, long guy. Both are very athletic. In some ways they're kind of like what they had going in Indy with (Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis but these guys are bigger guys. They're going to play four wide, wide down linemen and go after the quarterback like crazy."

THE A.J. GREEN VS. GIANTS SECONDARY PRESENTS OPPORTUNITY

As we pointed out above, Green made comments about the Giants defense. Rolle added comments later that read:

“I'll talk with my pads,” Rolle said. “If he sees me, he better duck.”

Now, now. The threat of head-hunting and giving Cincinnati 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties is exactly what Green is referring to; helping the opposing offense move the football.

That being said, and for the final time we'll mention it this year, with so much focus pressed on Green, will another wide receiver stand up? Perhaps Jermaine Gresham, sustaining the career-game he posted last week against the Denver Broncos. Show some consistency.

Where is Armon Binns, with only six combined receptions for 53 yards since his 63-yard effort against the Washington Redskins in Week Three (he was out against the Steelers). Andrew Hawkins hasn't surpassed 50 yards receiving since Week Three, with a 47-yard high in a losing effort against the Miami Dolphins.

At this rate it's a misguided complaint. There really isn't a No. 2 receiver on this team, therefore stepping up from absence is equal to waiting for infinity to end. Otherwise it would have happened by now.

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