With the Bengals off to an impressive 3-0 start, we gathered our staff to give their opinion on if this is the best team Marvin Lewis has ever had, which led to some good banter.
After all, Lewis has had six playoff teams, five of which won 10+ games. Two of them won 11 games while also winning the AFC North, something this year's team is in position to do as well.
"Is this team better than the 2005 Bengals?" That's another way to word this question, and I think the answer is yes. The offense is just a tiny step behind that '05 offense, while this year's defense is simply better. If Vontaze Burfict comes back and plays at a level even close to what we're accustomed to, this answer goes from a simple "yes" to a "HELL YES." This team is more complete from top to bottom, and they have great depth at multiple positions.
Yes, I believe it is, particularly when Vontaze Burfict comes back healthy and if they ever take the reigns off of P.J. Dawson. Still, it's not like Lewis hasn't had talented teams before. I really liked the 2013 squad, but they faltered. What's good to see is other players picking up slack from others not living up to expectations, i.e. Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. That's a sign of great depth and a high-quality team.
For a while, NFL fans and the media raved about the Bengals' roster, careful to note that Cincinnati's one weakness is at quarterback. Well, Dalton is playing out of his mind right now. Forget the stats. The man played with guts and passion on Sunday, electing to throw down the field and wrestle back the lead from the Ravens in the fourth quarter instead of playing it safe. I honestly have no doubt that his playoff performance this year will reflect his maturation and increased pocket awareness. So yes, this is the closest thing to a complete team we've seen in Cincinnati since 1989.
No question. If you compare the major stats from the two seasons, the 2015 version of the Bengals has around 90 more passing yards at this point and only 10 less rushing yds. Carson Palmer also tossed two interceptions to Andy Dalton's one. This team is more complete and the Bengals can win with a strong offense or a solid defense. In 2005 the team thrived off of turnovers, this team has a better overall defense without their best player on the field. (Vontaze Burfict)
I have to say that there have been teams with better individuals but not a better overall team. We knew going into this year that although an upgrade would be nice at linebacker and some other positions, overall this team is solid and has great depth. The Bengals' practice squad has guys that could be starting for other teams by mid-year. The team is able to overcome shortcomings at any given position as long as Dalton keeps pace with the first three games.
Best? That is tough to say just three weeks into the season – and that 2005 team was pretty good (at least offensively). However, when all is said and done, I think this team has the potential to be the best team under Marvin Lewis and the best team we have seen on the Ohio River since the 1988 Super Bowl team. What I will say about this team is they are the most balanced and most talented team under Lewis. Whether they can convert that balance and talent into the best team remains to be seen.
I am still going with the team from two years ago, even though the emergence of Kirkpatrick is very good and hopefully they don't lose any key players this season. This could change with wins against better teams.
This is definitely the best all around team Marvin Lewis has ever had. The 2005 team was close on offense, but this team is better at TE, and has two good RB. The 2005 defense relied on turnovers and playing with a lead and this defense is much more balanced.
This is definitely the best team of Andy Dalton's career. The team seems to be as talented as the 2013 incarnation, except Dalton is playing consistently well so far. As far as best team under Marvin Lewis? I would say no, mainly because Rudi Johnson was at his best on that ultra-talented 2005 squad. So far, we're getting very good (not great, because he didn't score) performances out of Giovani Bernard, but terrible performances out of Jeremy Hill. If the running game can improve, this will be the best team under Lewis.
We obviously won't fully know if this is the case until all 16 games are played, but so far, there's no question to me it's the best team. The 2005 team was great, but they didn't have anyone close to Geno Atkins's caliber. Heck, no one they had was even as good as Carlos Dunlap is right now. Those two have been a force on the defensive line and made life easier for the rest of the front seven to make plays.
Michael Johnson is starting to look like the MJ of old. Adam Jones is playing like one of the 10 best corners in football. Vontaze Burfict will be back in three weeks. Domata Peko and Rey Maualuga are playing as good as they ever have. This is the kind of defense you want in December and January to win grind-it-out games.
Oh, did I mention this offense is really good also? Andy Dalton looks like he's finally found a way to be 'Good Andy' consistently. He's shown he's a great QB when he's at his best, but has been too erratic with his play for Cincinnati to ever be anything more than a fringe playoff team. 'Bad Andy' cripples this team, but Dalton may finally have found a way to keep that side of him from popping up.
Giovani Bernard is quietly one of the NFL's top rushers through three games as Jeremy Hill is capable of taking over games as well. Tyler Eifert is the best tight end this franchise has had in two (or more) decades. A.J. Green is showing why he's one of the five or six best receivers in football.
All said, injuries can certainly prevent this from being the greatest team Lewis has ever had. That's what happened in 2013 when Leon Hall and Atkins went down, or else, that would be hands-down the best one.
If this team can stay healthy, there's no doubt in my mind it will finish as Lewis' best team he's had in his Bengals tenure.
In the Andy Dalton era it’s hard to vote against the 2013 team. They had a great offense and defense, and could/should have won 12~14 games that year. The 2015 team is off to a great start. If they can keep everybody healthy and get Burfict back, they have the trajectory to emerge as Marvin’s best team.