The Bengals are coming off their bye week following their first eight games in which they failed to win a single contest.
On of the biggest changes in the second half of the season will be Cincinnati’s benching of Andy Dalton for rookie quarterback Ryan Finley. How that change impacts the offense will probably determine a lot about the future of this season and the draft.
Here is a look at the Bengals final eight games of the 2019 season:
Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
This will be the first game for rookie quarterback Finley. Obviously him being implanted as a starter makes it hard to really project how this offense could possibly project down the stretch. One thing we can assume will get the Bengals offense playing better is the inclusion of A.J. Green. He has missed the entire season after injuring his ankle during training camp.
The real story here is whether Finley boosts this offense enough for this team to look competitive. The last time these two teams played it took a a late score to make this game look way closer than it felt. This was also the game where Brandon Wilson even spotted the Bengals with a touchdown to start the game.
Even with Green, the Raven killer, returning, it is hard to imagine the Bengals defense being able to slow down this Ravens offense enough to pull off the upset at home. This game is winnable though considering the two teams’ history of close games.
Bengals at Oakland Raiders
Cincinnati have won the past three games against Oakland. The Raiders offense has looked solid to good most of the season, but their offensive line actually rivals the Bengals’ in its struggles. Their defense has also struggled as they’ve given up the 28th most points in the NFL as well.
As with most of these games, Finley is the Wild Card that we don’t know enough about. Given that the Bengals defense has been able to keep opposing offenses from score get out of hand too often, this game is their best chance at receiving their first victory. If Cincinnati can keep the Raiders offense under 30 points, I’d look at this as a pretty favorable matchup for the Bengals.
Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
This will be Finley’s first crack at the Steelers. Pittsburgh really let everyone know where the Bengals belonged in the standings when they beat Cincinnati 27-3 on Monday Night Football. It will be interesting to see if it was Dalton’s own mental block keeping this team from getting over their Steeler-shaped hump. Safe money is on the Bengals getting swept by the Steelers this season, but the Finley factor makes this game interesting. Cincinnati’s defense looking uninterested in stopping Pittsburgh last time makes this look like a safe loss.
Bengals vs. New York Jets
The Jets aren’t a very good team. They are 1-7 at the time of writing this, but that is largely due to being without Sam Darnold for a portion of the season. The Jets ruffled quite a few feathers during the trade deadline on their own team, and how the payers respond to that could determine the rest of their season.
For this game, Le’Veon Bell scares me. It doesn’t matter how bad his season has been, this defense really struggles with running backs. This defense has made struggling running backs look good all season, and I have no reason to believe Bell won’t be the deciding factor in this games.
Bengals at Cleveland Browns
The Bengals have two matchups against the Browns down the stretch. Right now they are in a very tough spot at 2-6 on the year. Not exactly where they thought they’d be during the offseason. They have a pretty soft schedule to close out the year, but it is hard to say whether we will see Cleveland get up for Cincinnati like they did last year when they had the added motivation of facing Hue Jackson.
Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield are the keys to this game, and this defense hasn’t shown during the first half of the season that they can slow down an offense like this. That being said, to say the Bengals can’t split with the Browns (especially if they are still winless to this point with the added motivation to get their new head coach his first win) isn’t right. These games may prove to be closer than people expect.
Bengals vs. New England Patriots
The spread of this game may hit 20. These teams are at completely different places. One team is competing for Super Bowls annually, and the other is seeing if their rookie quarterback is good enough to warrant possibly being looked at as the future.
Bengals at Miami Dolphins
The game every fan is waiting for. The unofficial Tank Bowl should be nationally televised. Both of these teams have had their shots at winning games, but they keep finding ways to lose time and time again.
The Dolphins have the 32nd ranked scoring offense and defense. Meanwhile the Bengals defense gives up the most yards of any defense. Both teams have uncertainty at quarterback that both would like to solve this offseason. This game could very well decide who is picking first in the draft. This game could come down to who makes the play to lose the game last. Slight advantage has to go to Miami for playing at home.
Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns
Cincinnati should be able to pull one out against the Browns this season. It could come at the dismay of many fans rooting for the tank, but this team hasn’t given up (from what we’ve seen so far).
This largely depends on Finley’s play, but the Browns have been bad enough and could look down on the Bengals enough to overlook them. It would be especially coincidental if Cleveland was at a point they could be competing for a Wild Card spot, and Cincinnati repeats their history of ending a divisional rivals’ season.
The Bengals last eight games are in Finley’s hands, and if he impress the team could very well be looking at a max of probably three wins. If he is anything short of exceptional the last eight games could be as long as the first eight. It still would be shocking for Cincinnati could end up 0-16, which by the way probably won’t be necessary to get the first overall pick. The games against the Dolphins, Raiders, Jets and Steelers all seem like possibilities for wins with room to steal one against the Browns who don’t seem disciplined enough not to overlook the Bengals.
Better get whatever vice you deem necessary to get through Bengals’ games ready. There doesn’t seem like there will be too many games to cheer about.