The 2016 season is the fourth time that the Bengals have begun 2-2 in the 14 seasons with Marvin Lewis as the team’s head coach. In two of those three seasons they responded with winning records in the final dozen games, and made the playoffs. What does 2016 hold?
The Bengals were coming off a 2009 playoff appearance, in what was only their second playoff visit in almost two decades. Expectations were high. The Bengals began the year 2-2, but lost ten consecutive games en route to a 2-11 record, before finishing the year 4-12. It was the last season for Carson Palmer in a Bengals’ uniform, as he more or less “quit” the team following that season.
A polar opposite of the 2010 season, the expectations for the 2011 squad were anything but high. Many self-titled experts picked them to finish dead last in the NFL, and for good reason. They had high turnover on offense with a rookie offensive coordinator, a rookie quarterback, and a rookie wide receiver as his top target. Add in the limited time they had to prepare due to a league-wide lockout, and expectations for the offense were pretty much non-existent. Their 2-2 start was a big surprise. But the biggest surprise was the 7-5 finish, and a playoff appearance.
Following back to back playoff trips, which saw the team improve from 9-7 to 10-6, many hoped the 2013 team would take the success even farther. Following a 2-2 start, the team did increase their wins for a third straight season, to 11-5. Unfortunately, the postseason results were not any better.
The Bengals are coming off a 12-4 season, which tied their franchise mark for best regular season record in a season. As in 2011, the offense faces a lot of turnover with the loss of their offensive coordinator to a head coaching job, their top two wide receivers to free agency, and their tight end to more injuries. So far the Bengals have won a close game against the Jets, lost a close game to the Steelers, made rookie Trevor Siemian look like a Hall of Fame candidate in a bad loss to the Broncos, and came out victorious in a primetime beat down of the Dolphins. The result is another 2-2 start.
Much like the 2011 and 2013 teams, the 2016 Bengals are loaded with enough high quality players on offense (Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert) and defense (Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict, Carlos Dunlap) to make yet another playoff push. With five divisional games ahead of them, and the toughest one (on the road at Pittsburgh) out of the way, they are in a good spot to make a push for another AFC North title, or at least a Wild Card spot. The Bengals’ schedule is generally seen as getting easier as the season wears on, especially after the Week 6 game at New England. They are also set to receive help from some of their best players as Burfict returned last week and Eifert is due back any week.
Here are the starts and results after the Bengals’ first four games during the Marvin Lewis era:
0-4 : Made playoffs 0 of 1 times
1-3 : Made playoffs 0 of 3 times
2-2 : Made playoffs 2 of 3 times
3-1 : Made playoffs 3 of 4 times
4-0 : Made playoffs 2 of 2 times