Prepare to play the "shoulda, woulda, coulda" game. It was just a few short weeks ago that we were talking about this Bengals team as one that could have been undefeated. Now at 6-4, they are on a two-game slid in games that most believe that they should have won, as both went into heartbreaking overtimes. This Cincinnati team is talented enough to be 9-1 right now and be competing for top playoff seeds with Denver and Kansas City, allowing us to wonder who they would host at Paul Brown Stadium for a playoff game.
See what I did there? "Could, should, would"? Nevermind...
I think that many would be hard-pressed to say that the Week Four dismantlement of the Bengals at the hands of the Browns was a game that could be deemed as one that "could have gone either way". Cincinnati wasn't ever really in that game and and 11-point loss proved that. It's in those other three games that shows just how close this team is to being great.
In the three losses outside of Cleveland this year, the Bengals have been outscored by only eight combined points (three by Chicago, two by Miami and three by Baltimore). All three of those games came down to the wire and were decided on late scores. The irony of it is that the Bengals simply haven't played well in those games, yet still had a win in close reach.
For those wanting to cast stones at quarterback Andy Dalton, there is definitely a correlation in the three losses that I referenced. Against Chicago, Miami and Baltimore, Dalton has thrown four touchdowns and eight interceptions. Cincinnati, be it from their defense or otherwise, allowed 20-plus points in those three losses as well. Additionally, the team is 2-4 on the road and 4-0 at home so far this season, making the other two remaining road games critical ones.
I found myself wondering: is the fact that the team is so close to being 9-1 actually a temporary pacifier for the criticism that should rightly be heaped on the team. Three road losses, two in overtime, that were by a combined eight points. A team really can't get much closer to a win than that. But, some might retort that a loss is a loss and there are no moral victories in the NFL. I'd agree.
So, at this moment of conflicting opinions surrounding the Bengals, do you read the aforementioned stats in the losses and feel confident going forward? Do you feel that if they just tighten up a few things that they'll be playing deep into January? Or, do you feel that it is because of this poor play and the inability to stomp on throats that they might be a one-and-done once again?