The Bengals have never been a team that receives much, if any, respect from the national media.
Seemingly every year from 2011-2015 in which Cincinnati was making the playoffs, the so-called experts kept predicting every year to be the year they finally failed to make it to the postseason. They were wrong for five straight years, but they finally got it right this past season when the Bengals floundered to a 6-9-1 record.
So of course, that’s given the media ammo to predict another major step back for the Bengals in 2017. The latest NFL Power Rankings from ESPN have Cincinnati checking in as the 10th-worst team next season.
23. Cincinnati Bengals
2016 record: 6-9-1
Post-Super Bowl ranking: No. 22
The Bengals' offseason has been more defined by its losses than its additions. The two biggest losses may be on the offensive line, as guard Kevin Zeitler and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth both signed elsewhere. Quarterback Andy Dalton was pressured on a career-high 26 percent of his dropbacks last season, so a weak spot became weaker.
There’s no question this team is worse off than it was last season after Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler left this offseason. Anytime you lose your two best offensive linemen — both of whom were among the 10 best players at their respective positions in the NFL — you’re going to be a worse team.
However, the Bengals were a better club than their 6-9-1 record indicated. Six of those losses came by one score, and eight of the losses saw Cincinnati trailing by just one score in the fourth quarter.
That could have easily been an eight or nine-win team if not for a few bad breaks, not to mention having the worst kicker in the NFL last season. Simply getting an upgrade there could be the difference in 2-4 games.
But again, when a six-win teams loses two of its best players, it’s hard to fault anyone who thinks that will be one of the 10-12 worst NFL teams. Here’s to hoping the Bengals prove the doubters wrong again in 2017, something they’ll have to do just to be respectable if these rankings are any indicator.