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A Tale Of Two Halves: Breaking Down Cincinnati's Last 24 Games Into Two 12-Game Segments

Breaking down the Bengals past 24 games (including the team's playoff loss to the New York Jets) into two parts, you'll notice, if not completely hurl, that Cincinnati's struggles began as recently as the team's 30-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Dating back to 2009, the Bengals went 9-3 through the first 12 games. Including the team's playoff loss to the New York Jets, the Bengals have only won three of their previous 12. In our quest to find the differences, we took the major statistical categories and broke them down to the first 12 (team's 9-3 record in 2009) and the last 12 (every game since the Bengals loss to the Vikings).

Offensive Split First 12 Last 12
Points Scored 21.2 17.6
First Downs 241 218
Yards Total 331.9 311.0
Passing Yards 198.0 200.4
Rushing Yards 133.9 110.6

Unfortunately, aside from the team redirecting into a pedestrian rushing offense, the overall drop on offense isn't nearly as severe as the defense. Through the first 12 games into the 2009 season, the Bengals only allowed 15.6 points per game. In the previous 12 games, they've allowed over 24 points a game, nearly 30 more first downs and a 40-yard increase in overall yards allowed to opposing offenses. They averaged well over two quarterback sacks a game through their 9-3 start in 2009. Since then, they've averaged less than one. Worse yet is that the team's rushing defense went from a tough core of guys only allowing 81.8 yards rushing per game, to the more softer version that we're seeing today, allowing well over 134 yards rushing. Here's the defensive breakdown.

Defensive Split First 12 Last 12
Points Allowed 15.6 24.3
First Downs 197 229
Yards Total 293.3 337.5
Passing Yards 211.5 203.5
Rushing Yards 81.8 134.0
Quarterback Sacks 29 11
Interceptions 14 14

Since Carson Palmer has been the greatest target (of the players) from fans' frustrations, let's breakdown his previous 24 games into equal 12-game splits.

First 12 222 365 2,547 60.1% 16 10 85.0
Last 12 246 419 2,548 58.7% 18 11 79.7

In truth, the units on offense and defense are relatively the same personnel-wise, revoking the argument that there was a shift in talent causing the team's breakdown dating back late last season -- unless you want to include injuries as a heavy factor. If we are to set personnel changes aside, let's take the more obvious approach by braking down the Bengals' opponents based on their respective record the year that they played them (such as the Vikings record last year, rather than the Vikings record this year).

Bengals opponents sported a .458 winning percentage during their 9-3 start in 2009 (the first 12). In the 12 games since, Cincinnati's opponents have have a combined .581 winning percentage. Could the difference between the two 12-game stretches simply be the fact Cincinnati is playing better teams, unable to beat win the more challenging games against teams like the (12-4) Vikings, the (13-3) Chargers, the (5-2) Buccaneers or the (5-2) Atlanta Falcons? Is it really that simply, yet equally as frustrating?

Let's break it down further. During the team's 9-3 start, Cincinnati won five of six games (.833 winning percentage) against an opponent with a winning record. The only loss came against the Houston Texans. Oddly enough during the same stretch, they had a worse winning percentage against teams with a record at or below .500 with losses to the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders. Knowing Cincinnati's historically terrible record against the AFC West playing at their home, that's not entirely surprising. Alternatively, during the team's final 12 games, the Bengals have only won one of nine games against a team with a winning record (the 15-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens this season). The other two wins in the previous 12 games came against the Kansas City Chiefs (4-12 in 2009) and the Carolina Panthers (1-6 in 2010).

Here's an awesome friendly chart.

First 12 Games Wins Losses Winning %
First 12 Games Record 9 3 .750
Record Against Winning Teams 5 1 .833
Record Against .500 Or Worse Teams 4 2 .667
Last 12 Games Wins Losses Winning %
Last 12 Games Record 3 9 .250
Record Against Winning Teams 1 8 .111
Record Against .500 Or Worse Teams 2 1 .667

Whatever the reason, Cincinnati's downfall dates as far back as the team's 20-point loss to the Minnesota Vikings, losing most of their games, further compounded by the increased competition against teams that are simply better than the Bengals.