For Bengals' fans, the team reaching the playoffs only to lose in the first round has unfortunately become as commonplace as the infamous "death and taxes". While getting there is great, falling short has become a bit too repetitive.
Despite the frustration that finding a playoff victory has been just as elusive as finding something called a Mewtwo, from what I'm told, 2016 could be the season in which the Bengals finally break through this barrier and make a playoff run. Will this finally be that year? According to this bold prediction, the answer to that question is yes.
Why this Bold Prediction is absurd:
First off, the last time the Bengals won a playoff game, Pete Rose had not yet been banned from Major League Baseball, South Africa still practiced Apartheid, the USSR still existed, the United States had not yet invaded Iraq (for the first time), and Anthony Munoz was one of the Bengals' highest paid players making $850,000.
Since then, the Bengals have played in eight playoff games, and have lost all eight of them:
- 1991 Season 10-20 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders
- 2005 Season 17-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers
- 2009 Season 14-24 loss to the New York Jets
- 2011 Season 10-31 loss to the Houston Texans
- 2012 Season 13-19 loss to the Houston Texans
- 2013 Season 10-27 loss to the San Diego Chargers
- 2014 Season 10-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts
- 2015 Season 16-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers
When you fail to accomplish something for about a quarter of a century, it's quite an absurd prediction to expect that the Bengals would suddenly accomplish the goal. In the Andy Dalton era, the Bengals have a tendency to fall short in the regular season prime time games and the playoff games - any games played for a large national audience. With the same coach, same quarterback, and same cast of characters, there is no reason to expect this year will finally be the playoff winning season.
Since last season, the Bengals have lost their offensive coordinator, two of their top three wide receivers, and their elite tight end is already injured. Not to mention, they are probably going to be without their top pick from the NFL draft. They also lost additional coaches, such as Vance Joseph, and defensive stalwarts Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall. Across the board, the Bengals are not any better than last year's group which failed to achieve this goal. Therefore, this is a pipe dream, and too bold of a prediction to become a reality.
Why this Bold Prediction is feasible:
First off,every season is unique and stands alone. What the Bengals did in 1995, 2005, or 2015 has no bearing on what they will or will not do this season. It's no different than flipping a coin - eight straight "tails" flips does not automatically make "heads" an absurd expectation, because each flip of the coin is unique.
The 2016 Bengals are essentially the same squad who started last season with a franchise best eight straight victories, on their way to a 10-2 start. Their offense and defense were both dominant groups, averaging a double digit victory each time out, with an average score of 28-16 in each of those first 12 games played. When Dalton was lost for the season, that story changed, but the 2016 Bengals again feature a healthy Dalton, so there is no reason to expect a significant drop of from last season's dominant group that we witnessed through the first three months of the season. In those games with Dalton at quarterback, the Bengals also had a successful 3-1 mark against teams who made the playoffs.
Even though the Bengals have lost eight consecutive playoff games, some of those games should have been victories, but the team was knocked out by ridiculous circumstances. In the 2005 playoff game, their quarterback Carson Palmer, who was having a great season, was taken out by a questionable hit which meant they had to play without their best player at the most important position for pretty much the entire game. Again in 2015 they faced this same situation, losing quarterback Andy Dalton, who was having an MVP-esque season before an injury late in the year caused the team to stumble down the stretch, including the playoff loss. And in the previous season, 2014, the Bengals' entire group of receivers and tight ends was decimated by injuries, causing them to rely on practice squad players, and signing guys off the street.
The 2016 Bengals are a stacked team, and are often praised around the league for how well run their team is in terms of drafting, and decisions on player pickups and signings. On offense they boast one of the league's top returning quarterbacks from 2015 with an elite wide receiver who is the only receiver in NFL history to begin his career with five consecutive Pro-Bowl trips and 1,000 yards each season. Their tight end led the NFL last year in touchdown catches per game played, and they have a solid tandem of running backs. Not to mention, their offensive line is one of the better ones in the league, making Dalton one of the least hit quarterbacks last season.
Defensively, the line is still dominant with the league's top defensive tackle, Geno Atkins, and a great end in Carlos Dunlap. They made that group stronger with the addition of Andrew Billings. They have one of the league's best, albeit maligned linebackers in Vontaze Burfict. He is surrounded by a solid cast including veterans Karlos Dansby and Rey Maualuga, plus up and comers Nick Vigil and P.J. Dawson. In the secondary they have plenty of depth and athletic playmakers.
The Bengals will be one of the top teams in the NFL again in 2016 and making the playoffs should be a very achievable target. Once in the playoffs, with Dalton at the helm, this year should be the season they get that victory.