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Fixing the Bengals in 2018: Get obsessed with the NFL’s elite teams

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The Bengals play the vaunted Steelers at least twice a year, while the Patriots continue to be atop the AFC. Should the Bengals’ offseason focus largely be on how to beat those specific teams?

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While Marvin Lewis has painted a pretty solid resume for himself as the Bengals’ head coach over the past 15 years, there are also notable issues at hand. Aside from the dubious 0-7 playoff record, Cincinnati hasn’t been able to beat many of the NFL’s best with any form of consistency.

Now, obviously, the NFL is a league that can exploit certain matchup problems between teams and their respective schemes. It’s why the Patriots seem to have the Steelers’ number, why Pittsburgh has owned the Bengals under Lewis’ watch and why Cincinnati has an 18-12 record against the always-formidable Baltimore Ravens since 2003.

Depending on who you ask, there are a handful of premier teams in the NFL. These are teams who are continuously in the playoff race, have won recent championships, or are constantly sniffing The Lombardi Trophy. The Bengals, while in the race seven times over the past 15 seasons, haven’t gotten past the first round.

Unfortunately, some of the biggest examples of the Bengals’ struggles are within their own conference and division. Since Lewis took over the reigns, Cincinnati is just 1-6 against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots.

But, oh, those pesky Steelers.

Quite frequently, the AFC North division runs through Pittsburgh. Sure, Lewis has grabbed three divisional titles in his tenure, but an 8-24 record (including the postseason) is simply unacceptable—and the Bengals will continue to wallow in the mire until they can find a way to at least split the annual series.

Over the past few weeks both here at Cincy Jungle and on The Orange and Black Insider podcast, we’ve explored ways in which the Bengals can greatly improve themselves this offseason. Whether it was in making significant coaching changes, committing one way or the other to a quarterback, finding a team identity and being aggressive with roster personnel this offseason, the checklist has been large.

The most recent item that needs to be tackled may reside in their becoming obsessed with all things Steelers and Patriots. After all, these two teams regularly sniff at least the conference championship rounds of the playoffs, and, as mentioned before, have totally dominated Lewis’ Bengals.

For these two reasons (and bragging rights), the Cincinnati Bengals should be obsessed with all things Steelers and Patriots. If they achieve this, the Bengals can not only put themselves in a position to beat these two teams, but many other quality ones in the league.

Whether it’s in properly identifying players that matchup well against their schemes and having the aggressive nature to go get them, or grabbing the coaches who can get the Bengals over the hump, this should be one of the offseason’s priorities.

Look at the Patriots’ 2017 offseason. They added Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks by either free agency or trade. The rich got richer, as they say.

We’re not necessarily advocating for the Bengals to clone themselves in their exact molds. If that’s what new coaches like Teryl Austin, Bob Bicknell and Frank Pollack prefer, fine, but this is more about properly preparing, scheming and matching up well against the league’s elite.

Unfortunately, under Lewis, many of these losses haven’t always come down to personnel shortages. Yes, it’s a scheme and preparation thing, but it’s also one about discipline. One doesn’t have to look much further than the 2015 Wild Card game and this year’s Monday Night crumble against Pittsburgh as proof.

This also goes beyond the head coach in The Queen City. Ownership and the front office needs to also have this focus, which may or may not have been conveyed in a recent Mike Brown interview.

What do you think? Should the Bengals’ have their periphery set on New England and Pittsburgh? Or, should they continue to add and retain talent as they have done since 2011?

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