After falling to 3-7-1, including losses to both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, it sure feels like the Bengals’ 2016 season is done. There still have five games left to play, three of which are against AFC North teams. But, at this point, it would take a miracle for the Bengals to pull things together to have a shot at making the playoffs, and even then, it would require both the Ravens and Steelers to lose most, if not all, of their remaining games.
For all intents and purposes, the Bengals’ playoff hopes are now dead. There’s always next year, when the currently rebuilding version of the franchise will be more experienced with some established chemistry. However, there is still plenty of work to do if the Bengals want to get a good start on 2017. With five games left in the 2016 season and a whole offseason to reset and rebuild, here are the two possibilities for how the Bengals can approach the coming weeks.
The idea here is that, from this moment on, the Bengals would focus on building the team up for a stronger campaign in 2017. Instead of playing mediocre but experienced veterans who give the team more of a chance to win than erratic and inexperienced young players, it’s time to start developing the talent of the young guys. They’re the future, and that’s all the Bengals really need to worry about right now.
Furthermore, it’s time to say goodbye to a few faces who have been key to this organization for years. Guys like head coach Marvin Lewis and kicker Mike Nugent have proven they do not have what it takes to help the Bengals get over the playoff hump; they're detriments to this team. Therefore, it probably makes sense to go ahead and part with them sooner rather than later so their replacements can use the remaining time before 2017 to develop chemistry with the team. But, let's face it, Lewis isn't going to be fired before the end of the season, if at all, so the least the Bengals could do is cut Nugent, right?
Not to mention, aging veterans like Adam Jones, Eric Winston, and Rey Maualuga might need to have their snap counts reduced in favor of throwing young guys like Jake Fisher, Josh Shaw, Darqueze Dennard, Keivarae Russell and Nick Vigil into the fire. There are also guys on the practice squad right now itching for their chance on the active roster, depending on how far the Bengals are willing to go.
The final aspect of this plan is worrying more about draft positioning than ending the season on a strong note. As of right now, the Bengals would receive the No. 6 overall pick. But, that stock could drop drastically if they were to make the mistake of trying to win for pride.
Play for pride
With the Bengals almost definitely set to watch the playoffs at home for the first time in six years, they could build some decent momentum going into the next season by putting together a late-season winning streak.
The Bengals look like they’re on pace to finish around 4-11-1 this season. The last time that happened, they put together a three game winning streak at the end of the 2008 season. It didn’t matter much to the final results of that season, but it allowed the team to have some hope before breaking out in 2009 for a division championship season.
Face the facts: football players don't like losing. Even when the playoffs are a fool’s dream and the possibility of a high draft pick is on the line, find me an NFL player who wants to lose. Therefore, it makes more sense to continue focusing on trying to salvage as many wins as possible out of this season, rather than intentionally tanking to bring in some new talent.
What do you think, Bengals fans? How should the Bengals approach the rest of the season? Let us know which of these ideas makes more sense in the poll or pitch another idea in the comments!