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PFF: Bengals the most unlikely team to go from worst to first

Of all the teams that finished last in their divisions, PFF says the Bengals are the least likely to reach first place.

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New England Patriots vCincinnati Bengals Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Bengals record of 2-14 tied a franchise worst, setting the bar low for Zac Taylor’s first year as the head coach.

The real test for Taylor will come in 2020. With his system installed for a second straight year, a full offseason to evaluate his players, and the first overall pick, the Bengals should finish much better in 2020.

This doesn’t mean they will jump straight to the top of the standings, however.

Pro Football Focus looked at every team that finished last in their respective division in 2019, and ranked them by how likely each team is to win their division in 2020.

The Bengals were given the worst odds.

There’s a good chance that the Bengals will be much improved in 2020, and that will revolve heavily on whether what we saw in Joe Burrow’s final season at LSU translates to the NFL level. There are still a lot of holes to fill on this roster, though, and the Bengals don’t have the resources of a team like the Dolphins to quickly improve this offseason. There wasn’t a single facet of the game — passing, pass-blocking, run-blocking, receiving, rushing, run defense, pass rush or coverage — in which the Bengals finished the 2019 season with an above-average team PFF grade.

Asking a rookie, even one that played as well as Burrow did in the SEC, to lead a 2-14 team to the top of the AFC North is a tough ask. The Baltimore Ravens should still very much be in the conversation as one of the best teams in the NFL after what we saw from them offensively and defensively this past season, and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns will likely bounce back after disappointing seasons. There is next to no chance that the Bengals are able to supplant all three.

Winning the division would be quite the accomplishment, but it’s not entirely necessary. The Titans didn’t win their division in 2019, and still made it to the AFC Championship.

For most Bengals fans, even a playoff berth isn’t an expectation. But the Bengals will need to do better than 2-14.

In 2020, we need to see Zac Taylor improve as a coach, especially with a first overall pick on the roster. While a first place finish in the AFC North would be nice, as long as the team shows improvement from last season, that will be encouragement enough.

But if the Bengals aren’t competing for the division title in 2021, then that’s a different conversation.