When the NFL released the schedule back in April shortly before the draft, opinions were mixed on how the Cincinnati Bengals would fare in 2018. With the return of Marvin Lewis and the team coming off of two straight losing seasons, the talking heads had the team as a six-win club.
But, after the draft and once folks started seeing this year’s team in practices, the national perception changed. Folks began believing this could be a competitive squad this year and their 5-3 start has proved them correct.
Right after the schedule release, we made an early prediction of our own on how the Bengals’ season would go. For review, here are the results we had penciled in for the first half of the season:
- At Colts: Win
- Ravens: Win
- At Panthers: Loss
- At Falcons: Loss
- Dolphins: Win
- Steelers: Win
- At Chiefs: Loss
- Buccaneers: Win
So, while we were incorrect on the results in the Pittsburgh and Atlanta contests, our early guess on the 5-3 record before the midway bye rung true. Back in April, we guessed that the second half of the season would lead to a 4-4 record and, ultimately, a 9-7 finish where the team sniffed the postseason.
So, now that we have a sample size of half of a regular season, are there changes? Are nine wins enough to get the Bengals to the postseason this year?
There is an unfortunate caveat to these win-loss predictions: injuries. It would seem that Billy Price, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Kroft, John Ross and Nick Vigil should be returning to the lineup soon, which will be a nice boost for the team down the stretch.
However, one of their best players, A.J. Green, is battling a toe/foot injury and his long-term status is a bit uncertain. Because of the recent prognosis of his not needing surgery, we’re going with the prevailing thought that Green won’t be available for the next two games.
We discussed the possible outlook of the rest of 2018 on this week’s Orange and Black Insider podcast, and we figured we’d re-hash the discussion here as well.
Week 10, Saints at Bengals: Unfortunately, the Teryl Austin effect has been a negative one on the Bengals’ defense. Since he took over for Paul Guenther, Austin’s defense is ranked dead-last in overall defense and passing defense, while ranking 26th against the run.
While Drew Brees and Co. are more comfortable in a dome, this matchup doesn’t bode well for the Bengals next week. New Orleans boasts the 9th ranked passing offense and 17th rated rushing attack.
This will either be a blowout, or New Orleans will come into Cincinnati a bit exhausted having spent a massive amount of effort and emotion in beating the Rams in Week 9. We’re sticking with a loss here, though.
Week 11, Bengals at Ravens: This contest is one that is so topsy-turvy that it becomes hard to predict. Just as Pittsburgh is Cincinnati’s kryptonite, the Bengals often get the best of the Ravens.
An idea of a different Bengals team emerged after they took care of a solid Baltimore squad on national television. Some of that luster has dissipated with losses to the Steelers and Chiefs, but Lewis does have a 19-12 record against his former employers.
It’s possible the Bengals pull out a sweep this year, as the Ravens are even more Jekyll-and-Hyde than Cincinnati this year, but we’ll go with the series being split. We especially feel this way if Green, the perennial Raven-killer, is sidelined as it appears that that is going to be the case.
Week 12, Browns at Bengals: This one will be interesting, as Cleveland has proven to be scrappier than their 2-5-1 record would indicate. They’ve fired Hue Jackson and Gregg Williams comes in as the interim head coach. Can he inspire a late-season turnaround to respectability?
The Browns have also made a change at quarterback, as Baker Mayfield is now the unquestioned starter. The “Battle of Ohio” may be headed to a split this year, but I’m not so sure. In Williams’ debut as head coach, Cleveland got predictably stomped by Kansas City.
Week 13 Broncos at Bengals: This matchup has had its tugs-of-war in recent years, but Case Keenum doesn’t seem to be the long-term answer at quarterback for Denver. The Broncos are 3-6 and don’t have a ton of signs of trending upward.
One wild card in this matchup is the tandem of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The former has nine sacks this year, while Chubb is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate with eight sacks of his own.
Can the Bengals’ inconsistent offensive line rise up to the challenge? We think they will as Denver keeps finding ways to lose close games.
Week 14, Bengals at Chargers: Under Lewis, the Bengals are actually 5-3 against the Chargers. Believe it or not, Cincinnati is actually 3-1 when traveling to the west coast to face the Chargers under their long-tenured head coach.
Most look at this and automatically see a loss for Cincinnati, which is understandable given the Chargers’ 6-2 record. Los Angeles has a solid roster this season, but they do have weaknesses that can be exploited.
Still, with the Bengals dealing with so many injuries and their defense underwhelming right now, the Chargers could start to tip the recent record scale back to being close to even.
Week 15, Raiders at Bengals: Initially, this seemed like a really tough matchup on the schedule. Oakland made a needed change at head coach, and most thought that Jon Gruden would bring his quarterback whisperer skills to fix Derek Carr.
Well, it’s been an absolute dumpster fire for the Raiders this year, starting 1-7 and being recently embarrassed on Thursday Night Football. Cincinnati should cruise to a comfortable win here without many problems.
Week 16, Bengals at Browns: I really am tempted to give the Browns a win in the series this year, but I’m not as big of a believer in Mayfield as most folks seem to be. I still think they are a year away from truly being competitive in the division.
Even so, we expect these two games will probably be frustrating for Bengals fans to watch, in terms of performance and them being close contests, even if they end up both being wins for Cincinnati.
Week 17 Bengals at Steelers: Something tells me that this one will have some major implications going into January. Pittsburgh still has bragging rights over the Bengals after a last-second comeback win at Paul Brown Stadium, but they’ve shown major warts and have a pretty tough back half of the schedule (Ravens, Chargers, Patriots and Saints).
Pittsburgh just secured a huge win over the Ravens in Baltimore, pushing them further down the playoff pecking order at 4-5, and stomped the Panthers on Thursday Night Football. If Cincinnati can get a win in Maryland of their own in Week 11, the Ravens’ postseason hopes will essentially be dead.
Of Cincinnati’s eight meager wins against Pittsburgh in the Lewis era, six have inexplicably come at Heinz Field. I guess that plays a little into Cincinnati’s corner here, but common logic just doesn’t point to the Bengals pulling out a massive win against their bitter rivals to potentially put them into the playoffs, or give them better seeding.
End record: 9-7 — Wild Card berth
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