With the Bengals' 27-17 loss against the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football, the Bengals will have a rematch waiting for them in the first round of the playoffs – a visit to Lucas Oil Stadium to battle the Indianapolis Colts. The Bengals lost 27-0 in a very ugly shutout in Week 7 of the regular season. The Colts ended the season as the No. 4 seed, while the Bengals ended with the No. 5 seed as a wild-card team.
The Bengals have been very inconsistent coming out of their regular season finale, and that inconsistency resides in several glaring weaknesses. Whether it's because of injuries or simply poor execution, the pass rush has been very "up-and-down," for lack of a better phrase. After two great performances against Cleveland and Denver, the rush on Ben Roethlisberger was nearly nonexistent.
Otherwise, Andy Dalton has been playing scary. And not scary-good. Hue Jackson has justly called for a run-heavy attack this season. If anything, that should benefit the quarterback, no matter who it is. However, Dalton hasn't responded well in the passing game – the explosive passes to A.J. Green (a.k.a. NASA shots) have been lacking, and Mohamed Sanu has slipped out of the picture during those last five weeks. There has been a nice emergence of the run-option, but it hasn't been enough for the injury-plagued squad. Jeremy Hill can't do everything (although at times, he does a pretty good job of it).
The secondary has played well, given the lack of pressure up front, but the defense will have to become far more three-dimensional (or even just less one-dimensional) against a Colts offense that boasts tons of weapons in the passing game.
The special teams play was stellar against Denver, but had a problematic early-going against Pittsburgh with a punt returned for a touchdown. '
Starting to notice a pattern?
Inconsistency seems to be the best word to describe this team right now. And that's never a good thing when you're preparing for the postseason.