BB: Bengals Record Against Winning Teams And More On The Proving Ground

Andy Lyons

We take a look at the Bengals record in 2011 when they played and more on the players with the most to prove in 2013.

Never lose big.

We polled together every game (that mattered) that the Cincinnati Bengals played since 2011. Our Goal: Instead of determining the Bengals record against teams that finished the season with a winning record, we looked at Cincinnati's record against the opponent's record when they played their respective games.

For example, the Buffalo Bills finished the season 6-10 in 2011. When the Bengals hosted them in week four, Buffalo was an undefeated 3-0. Clearly it's far more exciting and impressive to look back at Cincinnati's performance on that game knowing that they beat an undefeated team. Otherwise all people notice is that the Bengals beat a team that finished the season with only six wins; both do apply in their own way.

That's not to take away from Cincinnati's performance against Buffalo; we still view it as the launching point for the Bengals surprising successes in 2011; the game people flagged down their local bandwagon to check this "new" team out.

But there's practical application in a sense, exploring how teams were performing at that stage of the season rather than a collection of every game played.

Since 2011, the Cincinnati Bengals were 4-8 against teams that entered that game with a winning record. On the surface it tells you all that you needed to know. The Bengals are simply unable to beat better teams. Houston? Stop. Baltimore? Forgetaboutit. Not new information to you though, is it, knowledgeable Bengals fan?

Yet the record alone doesn't characterize the performances. Cincinnati has been blown out twice (Steelers in 2011 and the Texans during the playoffs that same year). against teams with a winning record. Beyond that, Cincinnati didn't lose by more than one possession and the average differential during all 12 games combined was 4.3 points/game. The four wins were against the Buffalo Bills (3-0, '11), Tennessee Titans (4-3, '11), New York Giants (6-3, '12) and Baltimore Ravens (9-6, '12). Pittsburgh sported a 7-7 record when Cincinnati beat the Steelers in 2012.

On the other hand, the Bengals have clearly beaten squads that they were expected to beat. Since 2011 when the "new Bengals" played their first season, Cincinnati went 11-3 against teams with a losing record when those games were played. The Bengals won by an average 9.3 points/game. Oddly enough Cincinnati went 4-4 against teams with a .500 record when they played.

RANDOM NOTES FROM OUR TWITTER ACCOUNT (which is like retweeting one's self):

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Keeping Travelle Wharton makes more sense.

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Chris Roling, one of the few Bleacher Report authors that I actually respect, offers a commentary that the Bengals should release offensive guard Travelle Wharton. The reasoning is actually logical. Wharton, who turned 32 years old this week, is coming off an ACL injury while carrying a cap number of $3.375 million.

We disagree.

Wharton's contract isn't disrupting Cincinnati's economics in regards to their salary cap. Releasing Wharton carries a dead money tab of $1 million, reducing the cap savings but not cleaning that slate. Additionally the Bengals currently have over $20 million available under the cap (though most of it is already earmarked). Contract extensions won't be affected and money will be freed up by Wharton's contract if/when it comes down to it (which isn't necessary right now). It's believed that once you factor the $10 million being carried over to next year, the money allocated to rookies and bucks stashed for probable signings related to injuries, the Bengals still have money available without requiring additional savings from Wharton's contract.

Having Wharton is actually a benefit, keeping a veteran offensive guard to challenge Clint Boling to maximize production -- competition is a hell of a motivator. And if Boling is lost to an injury, Wharton as a replacement offers limited degradation to overall performances -- especially in the running game. In fact with offseason discussions presenting Wharton as an offensive tackle, one has to play the versatility card. At least for now.

Recovery is the real key. Wharton, who isn't projected to work during OTAs this week, is expected to be ready by training camp after suffering an ACL injury during the team's first preseason game.

Obviously corresponding to the conversation is Tanner Hawkinson, who impressed the Bengals by how quickly he picked up all five positions during rookie minicamp earlier this month. If Hawkinson proves an ideal replacement for Wharton at the onset, then Wharton becomes expendable as a reserve player also -- which is the only real argument for keeping him around. But those are questions that can't be answered until early September when formulating the roster.

Otherwise it's ideal to keep as many of your best players as long as possible.

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Questions about Dalton are not criticisms.

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During our series of players with the most to prove in 2013, we ranked starting quarterback Andy Dalton No. 4. Our reasoning? Dalton needs to play bigger in the pocket with confidence and improve his performances during bigger games. Not once did we say write, "because he sucks, we want him to suck less". He doesn't. Though he might not have talent that defines "elite quarterback" (what a silly and over-saturated term anyway), Dalton has a decent ceiling and an already proven track-record.

Last year Dalton ranked seventh in the NFL with 27 touchdowns. Of the quarterbacks with 500 passing attempts or more, his 62.3 completion percentage ranked ninth. Only two quarterbacks (Josh Freeman, Drew Brees) connected on more passes that gained 40 yards or more -- two to Jermaine Gresham who tied the league lead with the most among tight ends. And in 32 regular season games played, Dalton has put together seven game-winning drives and five fourth quarter comebacks.

On the other hand, with any third-year quarterback there is a bucket list.. Dalton was sacked 48 times in 2012. Pro Football Focus blamed Dalton with nine of those sacks (most attributed to one person) for holding onto the football too long or scrambling with impatience from within a solid pocket. On third down, Dalton completed only 47.5 percent of his passes on third down with a passer rating of 72.9.

If you say that Dalton is bad and should be replaced next season, you're overreacting and part of me thinks you just want someone else, despite the positives that Dalton has accomplished already. If you say that Dalton can do no wrong and grow irritated by the conversation entirely, then you're either lying to yourself. You have to find that balance.

***

Fan quotes on Charles Woodson question.

We talked Charles Woodson on Twitter saying, "If asked about Charles Woodson to Cincinnati, I answer a question with a question: Is he worse than the safeties on the current roster?" A few of the responses:

  • @StankFreakNasty: "Shawn Williams is a huge question mark. Even Zim was asking if he ever covered anyone at UGA."
  • @Simongreene88: "He'd definitely be a starter."
  • @engelj06: "True, but if you sign Woodson, that means Williams can't get experience."
  • @CincyThunderCat: "I really think he has had too many injuries to make a difference."

Woodson signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders Tuesday night.

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