This is the best team since the 1988 Bengals

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

When you think about the best Bengals team in recent history, many people think to the 2005 season. I think the 2013 Bengals are a better team and a more complete team.

Bengals fans remember the 2005 Bengals team fondly. They burst on the scene with Carson Palmer gunslinging and the defense creating turnovers in record numbers. Following up back to back 8-8 seasons, the Bengals amassed a record of 11-5 while creating a league leading 44 turnovers. We remember the long passes from Palmer, the antics of Chad Johnson and the toughness of Rudi Johnson.

I think the 2013 team is better than the 2005 team.

I get it, instant gut reaction says no. Many of you are thinking there is no way that Dalton compares to Palmer. In '05 we had depth at the wideout position and our defense was creating a ton of turnovers. While this is partly true, the disparity is not what you may think.

The 2005 Bengals were 5-3 at home and 6-2 on the road. They scored 421 total points for an average of 26.3 per game. This ranked them 4th in the NFL.

The 2013 Bengals are 6-0 at home and 3-4 on the road. They have scored 334 points for an average of 25.7 per game. This has them ranked 9th in the NFL.

In 2005 the Bengals defense gave up an average of 21.9 points a game. This is a difference of 4.4 points per game. The 2013 team is only giving up 18.8 points a game. This gives them a difference of 6.9 points a game.

Where the 2005 team has the edge is in turnovers. They held a turnover differential of +24. That is an insane number, they created 44 turnovers that season. That being said, they were still giving up more points and more yds than the current Bengals defense who is -1 in turnover differential. This means the current defense has to do more with less. Drives are not being ended by turnover, they are being ended by a stout defense.

The 2013 defense is on pace to give up almost 300 yds less than the 2005 team. Pretty remarkable based on the lack of turnovers.

The defensive side of the ball clearly favors the 2013 Bengals. Even with the turnovers, the 2005 team was still being scored on and gashed for yds unlike the Bengals current squad. With all of those turnovers, the 2005 defense was only able to score 1 defensive touchdown all season. Our current Bengals have 4.

Now we move to the offensive side of the ball and start with the two lightening rods, Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer. 2005 was Carson's coming out year. He blew it up, heaved the ball all over the yard and seemed to be unstoppable (until the knee was destroyed of course). His numbers were really good:

  • 67.8 % completion
  • 3836 yds
  • 32 TD
  • 12 INT
  • 7.5 yards per attempt
  • 11.1 yards per completion

All solid numbers for the guy with the golden arm that we thought so highly of. Then we take a look at the same numbers for Andy Dalton:

  • 62% completion
  • 3419 yds (on pace 4208)
  • 25 td (On pace for 30)
  • 16 INT (on pace for 19)
  • 7.3 yards per attempt
  • 11.8 yards per completion

Here is what stands out. He currently has a slightly lower completion percentage. He is on pace for slightly less touchdowns and has significantly more interceptions. However two numbers that can't be ignored are his passing yds and yards per completion. Both larger numbers than a guy that was known for his big arm.

So if Carson carries the slight edge, it must be the 2013 Bengals rushing game that is better. The 2005 Bengals hold the lead in the rushing game too. The 1910 yds rushing that season is better than the 1853 the Bengals are on pace for now. The 15 rushing touchdowns in 2005 are better than the 13 the 2013 Bengals are on pace for. The 4.2 yds per carry in 05 is better than the 3.8 this season.

Where the current offense carries the edge is in the distribution and contribution of it's offensive players. Look at the tight end position.

Quick who played tight end for the Bengals in 2005?

It was Reggie Kelley and Matt Schobel. They combined for a whopping 283 yds receiving and 2 touchdowns that season. Compare that to the 795 yds and 4 touchdowns that Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert have so far this season and the talent difference is obvious.

Some of us also like to talk about Andy Dalton's reliance on A.J. Green. Sure, he is the favored target with 1175 yds and 8 touchdowns, but that is on par with the Palmer to Chad Johnson connection. They had 1432 yds and 9 touchdowns that season. I think we all would agree, Green is a much better receiver than Johnson.

In 05 T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a nice 956 yds to add and the late Chris Henry contributed 422 yds. Other than those three, Palmer had no other real weapons.

Dalton on the other hand has many other weapons beyond what we talked about in the tight ends. Marvin Jones has 518 yds and 8 touchdowns. Mohamed Sanu has 388 yds and a touchdown. Giovani Bernard has 403 yds and 3 touchdowns through the air.

So I have thrown a lot of stats at you. On paper the teams are comparable, I see a slight edge for the current squad, but I would entertain arguments for the 2005 team also. Where they differ is the bigger picture. I have more confidence in the leadership of this team. There are no me first players in 2013.

The 2013 team is working on its third straight playoff appearance and 4th in 5 years. The 2005 squad was following two 8-8 seasons and failed to make the post season in 06.

The 2005 team split the regular season series with the Steelers, didn't beat a division winner and the only playoff team they beat that year was the Chicago Bears. (outside of the 1 Steelers win).

The 2013 team beat the Green Bay Packers when Aaron Rodgers was healthy. They beat division leaders Patriots, Colts and Lions. 2 of their losses were in overtime and when looking at the season, they may have under achieved.

We were riding high going into the playoffs in 2005. Even though we held identical 11-5 records with the Steelers, we won the division based on tie breakers. In 2013 the Bengals have a legitimate shot at the number 2 seed. They own a 2 game lead in the division and secure a playoff berth with 1 more win. They are undefeated at home and have a good shot ensuring their first playoff game will be played in Cincinnati.

Just for kicks I ran a simulation at WhatIfSports.com pitting the 05 team against the 13 team. Below is what spit out.

Whatif_medium

So for the Pro-Dalton guys, you read this piece and probably see the facts pointing out that the current team is superior to the 2005 team.

The Anti-Dalton readers may have a harder time getting past that. When looked at objectively, the arguments stand out that I think we have a better team now than we did in 05. What are your thoughts?

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