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USA Today projects the worst record imaginable for the Bengals

A repeat of 2017 is the last thing this franchise needs.

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Minicamp Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2018 NFL season approaching, several outlets are starting to unveil their win-loss predictions for all 32 NFL teams.

The latest is USA Today Sports, which projects the Bengals to endure yet another 7-9 campaign.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-9): Their situation mirrors Baltimore’s with a quarterback and coach fighting to prove themselves amid a minefield schedule. At least the offensive line was upgraded.

I would argue this is the worst possible record the Bengals could have in 2018 for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is it’s the same record the Bengals floundered to in 2017, yet it was enough for Marvin Lewis to earn a two-year contract extension.

Mike Brown will look for every excuse in the book to keep Lewis around, so another 7-win season may give him just that, even though it would be a third-straight losing season.

If the Bengals are going to have a losing record in 2018, they’re better off losing more than nine games and ensuring Lewis is sent packing, paving the way for a real rebuild that may actually take this franchise to the next level, something Lewis has been unable to do.

I would go as far as to say the Bengals going 1-15 is more beneficial than going 7-9. While 15 losses would be tough to stomach, at least it would force Brown to make sweeping changes that actually make a big difference, not switching out position coaches or adding a few quality starters in trades and free agency. I’m talking about a new coach, a new play caller, and maybe a new quarterback.

7-9 probably won’t lead to those changes, and instead, keep things more of the same we’ve seen over the last 15 years.

That is the worst imaginable scenario for the 2018 Bengals.

This franchise is at a crossroads in 2018: They either need to show they’re still capable of having a winning season and being a playoff team, or they need to accept it’s time for a major rebuild that begins in 2019. Anything in between could be severely detrimental to the short and long-term potential of this franchise, especially with aging veterans like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap inching closer toward their non-prime years.

Some will argue 8-8 is the worst-case scenario, but that would at least be an improvement off of last year.

Saying all of this, if the Bengals can just keep the majority of their roster healthy, I feel good about them getting nine wins and being in the thick of the playoff race.

What record do you think would be the worst-case scenario for the 2018 Bengals?