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How do Bengals' three franchise 6-0 starts compare

The 2015 Bengals have started 6-0 for only the third time in team history. How did the first two teams to start 6-0 do it? How did they finish?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What do the years 1975, 1988, and 2015 have in common? As far as the Cincinnati Bengals are concerned, all three years saw the Bengals begin the year with a 6-0 record. These are the only three 6-0 starts in team history.

In honor of the 2015 team’s current 6-0 start, we take a look back at the previous two 6-0 starts and compare them to the present 6-0 start.


In 1975 the Bengals won their first six games behind a stout defense which allowed only 11.7 points per game. In all six games, they held the opposition under 20 points and even had a shutout. The defense held opponents to a paltry 101 yards passing per game, and only 238 total yards per game.

The offense was good, not great, and averaged 21.3 points a game, never scoring less than 14, but never more than 27 during the first six games. The 1975 Bengals lost the ball a dreadful 13 times in their first six games, but somehow managed to take away the ball 22 times – that’s almost four takeaways per game. A huge +9 turnover margin helped the 1975 Bengals start 6-0.

When they suffered their first defeat:

In Week 7 the Bengals hosted 5-1 Pittsburgh. After three Ken Anderson interceptions, the Bengals found themselves facing a big 23-3 deficit by the start of the 4th quarter. The Bengals charged back with three fourth quarter touchdown passes from Anderson, but it wasn’t enough, as the Bengals lost 30-24.

How the finished:

The 1975 Bengals bounced back from that Week 7 loss, by winning their next two games. They finished the year 11-3, and reached the playoffs as the one wild card team in the AFC. They travelled to Oakland where they lost in the first round of the playoffs in a close game, 31-28. That Pittsburgh team who ended their streak finished 12-2 and won the Super Bowl.


The 1988 Bengals were the polar opposite of the 1975 team which also started 6-0. The 1988 Bengals were a high powered offense with a good enough defense.

Through six games, the Bengals averaged 28.5 points per game, and scored at least 17 points in all six games, scoring as many as 45 points. Much like their 1975 counterparts, the 1988 team owned the turnover battle. They only gave away the ball eight times, and had a +8 turnover margin through the first six games.

When they suffered their first defeat:

In Week 7 the Bengals travelled to lowly 2-4 New England. In the first quarter, the Bengals gave up a fumble recovery to the Patriots in the end zone for a quick 7-0 deficit. That was the start of a turnover fest for the Bengals, who ended the game with a -6 turnover margin (6 turnovers and 0 takeaways) thanks in large part to five Boomer Esiason interceptions. Despite the -6 turnover margin, the Bengals only lost by six points, 27-21.

How the finished:

The 1988 Bengals bounced back from the embarrassing loss to the Patriots, by destroying the hated Houston Oilers 44-21 behind five touchdown runs from the tandem of James Brooks and Ickey Woods. The Bengals finished 12-4 , which tied them for the best record in the AFC with the Buffalo Bills, who they had defeated in Week 13. The Bengals defeated the Seahawks and Bills on their way to their second Super Bowl appearance, a 20-16 heartbreaking loss to the San Francisco 49ers.


The 2015 team seems to have a lot in common with the 1988 team. Both teams featured a successful two-headed running back tandem. In 1988 it was James Brooks and Ickey Woods, and in 2015 it is Giovani Bernard & Jeremy Hill. Also, the 2015 team features a very good offensive line and a high powered offense that is lighting it up on the field.

Like the 1975 squad, the 2015 Bengals need to beat Pittsburgh to advance to 7-0 for the first time in team history.

Interestingly, all three of the 6-0 Bengals’ teams faced a couple of similar opponents in their first six games. All three years they played the Oakland Raiders, but never in the same city. In 1975 they played in Cincinnati, in 1988 they played in Los Angeles, and in 2015 they played in Oakland. All three 6-0 Bengals teams also faced the Cleveland Browns 1.0, otherwise known today as the Baltimore Ravens.

One thing the 2015 team does not share with the other two teams to start 6-0 is the huge turnover discrepancy. The 2015 Bengals are only +3 in the turnover battle (+9 vs -6), compared to +9 in 1975 and +6 in 1988.

A quick look at the statistical comparisons between the three teams:

Off Pts Def Pts Pts Diff
1975 21.3 11.7 9.6
1988 28.5 17.8 10.7
2015 30.3 20.3 10.3

Rush Yd Pass Yd Total Yds Rush Yd Pass Yd Total Yds +/-
1975 120 191 311 138 101 238 73
1988 155 250 405 126 218 344 61
2015 122 288 410 109 262 371 39

Takeaways Giveaways Turnover Diff
1975 22 13 9
1988 16 8 8
2015 9 6 3

Off 1st Down Def 1st Down 1st Down Diff
1975 18.7 14.8 3.9
1988 22.3 21 1.3
2015 21.8 19.3 2.5

No Bengals team has yet to reach 7-0. Will the 2015 team be the first?