The Bengals are 2-3 and facing a real chance of being 2-4 with a challenging game in New England coming up.
Combined with the fact Cincinnati has beaten two teams with a combined 2-8 record, it’s safe to say the Bengals have been less than impressive through the first third of the regular season.
That’s why we can no longer knock any playoff study that gives the Bengals are less-than-ideal chance of making it to the postseason. This week, a playoff study done by Football Outsiders (via ESPN) gives Cincinnati the 12th-best odds in the AFC to earn a playoff berth. In short, they don’t see the Bengals making the playoffs.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)
Odds of making playoffs: 21.7 percent
One problem for the Bengals' defense so far is that they're letting opponents move the ball right off the bat. Cincinnati ranks 29th in defensive DVOA during the first quarter of games. That's going to be a problem against a Patriots' offense that ranks No. 1 in DVOA during the first quarter, Brady or no Brady.
This study takes into account how Football Outsiders ranks the Bengals as a team compared to the rest of the NFL, while also accounting for their remaining schedule. They have Cincinnati ranked 19th in DVOA, so they’re not exactly high on the Bengals.
Football Outsiders also has the woefully bad Jaguars with better odds to make the playoffs, which seems crazy until you realize how bad the AFC South is. A bad Jaguars team may actually be capable of catching an average Texans team to win the division.
One thing is for sure: The current AFC North-leading Steelers are better than anyone in the AFC South. These playoff odds seem to reflect on Cincinnati having a tougher time keeping pact with Pittsburgh more than Jacksonville will with Houston.
All of this only serves as another reminder that the Bengals have not been very good through the first five weeks of the regular season. It probably isn’t going to get much better this Sunday when they face a Patriots teams ranked No. 1 or 2 in most power rankings.
However, Cincinnati still has a lot of winnable games left on the schedule, including two matchups with the Browns (0-5) and Ravens (3-2). It’s possible to see them beating the Giants (2-3) and Texans (3-2), and the Bengals also host the Eagles (3-1), Bills (3-2) and play Washington (3-2) in London.
Seeing the Bengals win five to seven more games isn’t hard. They just need to steal a game or two. The Giants and Texans have shown they’re very vulnerable and Cincinnati could make primetime statements with those two games.
The odds may be against the Bengals right now, but the path is certainly there for them to get back into the playoffs. All they can do for now is take it one game at a time and not worry about what their final record will be.
Playoff leverage this week (teams with byes not shown). Probably no wildcard for the AFC S runner-up, so Colts-Texans game is big. pic.twitter.com/YROIUvYgXq— Brian Burke (@bburkeESPN) October 12, 2016