The national media has not been kind to the Bengals this offseason, and ESPN continues to pile it on.
ESPN has just released their Football Power Index rankings for 2018 and odds to win the Super Bowl. Not surprisingly, the Bengals were not well regarded in these calculations, given a 25th place projected ranking, an 18 percent chance to make the playoffs, an eight percent chance to win the division, a one percent chance to reach the Super Bowl, and less than one percent odds to win it.
Instead of using analysis or film study, ESPN is hating on the Bengals quantitatively Las Vegas odds and last years’ stats for their calculations.
You can read more about the process here, but the model considers each team’s win total at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, how that team performed on offense, defense and special teams last season, how many starters are returning, and who the starting and backup quarterbacks are.
There are only 32 NFL teams, and the Bengals are picked to have the eighth-worst record, meaning they’d essentially be in the bottom quarter of the league.
Given the Bengals’ poor odds from Las Vegas and the franchise-worst offense from last season, obviously the Bengals are not going to have the most flattering ranking.
It’s not hard to see why the Bengals were given such a low ranking if one takes the other factors into account. The defense and special teams were statistically middle-of-the-pack last year, which were clearly not enough to elevate the team very much. The backup quarterback situation is not good, with Matt Barkley, Logan Woodside, and Jeff Driskel competing for that role during training camp.
The only thing the Bengals have going is the fact that Russell Bodine, Adam Jones, and Kevin Minter will not be returning. Most of the other starters will be, but some of the biggest liabilities from 2018 are no longer on the team.
The right side of the offensive line is still uncertain and will still have minimal success, but the addition of Cordy Glenn, Preston Brown, Billy Price, and the insertion of William Jackson into the starting lineup should give the Bengals a boost.
Unfortunately, the factors involved in the calculation of the FPI rankings seems to ignore the draft, free agency, and coaching personnel. These are probably the biggest improvements the Bengals worked on during the offseason, and they certainly don’t lack importance. The FPI rankings put too much stock into the previous years’ performance and not enough in the future.
Its hard to imagine that at team with all the issues the Bengals had last year and still found a way to finish one game under .500 will be ranked so low, given the improvement they have shown this offseason. It seems like Marvin Lewis has turned over a new leaf this year and the new coaches on the staff are bringing much needed changes to the organization.