But despite some help in the AFC North, the Bengals still sit in third place and need to climb the ladder if they want to make a playoff run. The schedule for the Bengals has some weak points, as well as some tough battles, and the Bengals will have to face a tough opponent next week when they head to Pittsburgh. There are plenty for the team to improve on in the bye week, and here are five quick ways the Bengals can improve for Pittsburgh, and the season beyond.
The Bengals defense has worked very hard to get where they are today, with Vontaze Burfict returning to the fold, the defense in Cincinnati is helping carry a struggling offense. But the Bengals’ defense lacks takeaways this season, which could help swing momentum for the offense.
Through the bye week, the Bengals only have four takeaways. Of those four takeaways, two of them come from rotational players in William Jackson III and Clayton Fejedelem. The Bengals could utilize some of their younger players in the secondary more to try and infuse more turnovers into the 23rd worst turnover defense as ranked by PFF.
4. Rushing Defense
By going back to the defense we are obviously nitpicking here, but the Bengals pass defense crushes their pass defense by quite a bit. The second-best pass defense in the NFL through five games moonlights as the 16th rush defense in the league. This could be a huge issue when the Bengals collide with the Pittsburgh Steelers who seemed to get Le’Veon Bell going against the Kansas City Chiefs defense.
3. Passing Offense
The Bengals passing offense historically has been one of their strengths. With Tyler Eifert heading to injured reserve, and Tyler Boyd succumbing to injury too, the Bengals will need help from the likes of Tyler Kroft, Brandon LaFell and Cody Core to take some of the pressure from A.J. Green who’s having a strong year now that Bill Lazor has taken over the offense.
2. Rushing Offense
One of the most complicated positional battles from the offseason has spilled onto the field through the first five weeks. The Bengals have been splitting carries between Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and rookie Joe Mixon. But Mixon has been leading the way in recent weeks, and saw his carries doubled the week that Bill Lazor took over the offense.
Hill, however, has seen less than 10 carries in each game so far this season, and Bernard has seen five or fewer carries in all but one game this season. This may not be a popular decision, but the Bengals need to give more carries to Giovani Bernard. He has the longest carry for the Bengals this season and the best average among the three backs. His mix of excitement, veteran prowess, and receiving threat could ignite some fear in opposing defenses trying to defend the Bengals’ other weapons.
1. Offensive Line Play
Was there ever going to be another number one thing the team could improve? The Bengals need to work with Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, and even Andre Smith to improve their play heading into a divisional battle against the Steelers.
James Harrison knows some of the Bengals schemes from his time in Cincinnati, and he looks as good as ever with a critical sack this past week against Kansas City. For a line that has allowed 15 sacks and is 21st in sack percentage, according to PFF, there’s plenty of room to improve. The sooner the Bengals find the best mix of lineman, the sooner they improve the run game as well as the offense as a whole.