The Bengals really don’t have much ground to stand on this week. They took one step forward when they defeated the Raiders, but then two step backs as they looked lost against the Browns until the final half of the fourth quarter.
Now at 6-9, Cincinnati secured their third straight losing season. They will also finish as the worst AFC North team for the first time since 2010, which was the season that set up the Bengals Andy Dalton and A.J. Green era. They are staring down their final game of the season against the Steelers on Sunday with a chance to keep them from reaching the postseason. At this point it is a matter of who will even be able to play as Cincinnati has been limping to the finish line with injuries.
It is hard to imagine the Bengals putting up an effort in their final game that can change the league-wide perception of them going into the offseason. They are going to be playing a very motivated Steelers team that is in a win-or-go-home scenario. We will likely hear about how injuries derailed this season during the offseason, but the problems extend beyond that for fans who have been paying attention.
This team got out to a 4-1 start when they were pretty much perfectly healthy, and people hadn’t caught on to their new schemes. The defensive troubles were existent in those first five games, but it was a matter of timely turnovers bailing the team out. The offense also slowed to a halt even when playing bad defenses like the Chiefs. There were obvious issues bubbling to the surface that injuries just helped cover up.
All of that seems to be reflected in the power rankings this week, as Cincinnati maintains it spot near the bottom of the league.
Non-QB MVP: RB Joe Mixon. The Bengals didn’t really have an MVP this season, especially with everyone getting hurt. If A.J. Green had stayed healthy, it certainly would’ve been him, but Mixon gets the nod by simply being the last man standing. Mixon crossed the 1,000-yard threshold against the Browns and has been the only real bright spot on a team depleted by injuries. -- Katherine Terrell
Jeff Driskel hasn’t been terrible. He threw two touchdowns and no interceptions on Sunday, though he did nothing before the Browns had an enormous lead. Driskel is a good athlete and is capable of making some throws. Not that the Bengals should believe they found a quarterback of the future, but he should be a solid backup going forward.
The unraveling of this team has been a sad sight. It would be surprising if the Bengals manage to give the Steelers much of a fight Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Is this week’s game the last for Marvin Lewis as coach? Does he go upstairs?
Average ranking: 26.8