When you talk about what teams could potentially improve their number of wins the most going into the next season, it is hard to leave the team that won the fewest off of it. It is really hard for good teams that win nine or more games to really improve drastically on those numbers, but a team that only won two games and drafted a potentially franchise changing quarterback has a pretty good shot at winning more games.
That was Bill Barnwell’s thoughts when he listed the Bengals among four teams most likely to improve in 2020. However, Burrow’s arrival isn’t his only reason for believing Cincinnati could be better. He notes quite a few times that the Bengals were in more games in 2019 than people realize with an 0-7 record in games decided by fewer than seven points.
As you might suspect from a 2-14 team, Cincinnati wasn’t good in one-score games. It was 0-7 in games decided by seven points or fewer, and while a couple of those weren’t as close as the final score indicated, the Bengals lost some legitimate heartbreakers. They were up 17-14 on both the Seahawks and Bills in the fourth quarter and lost both games. They were down 13-10 against the Steelers in the fourth quarter and drove into the red zone, only for wide receiver Tyler Boyd to fumble on the 6-yard line and hand the ball to their hated division rivals. They eventually lost 16-10.
There are honestly so many reasons for realistic optimism in Cincinnati next season that this point usually flies under the radar. It is an insane stat, but more importantly there is a history of teams not sustaining such terrible luck (or good luck if they have an incredibly good record in such games). That alone should result in a few more wins. Especially when you consider that the Bengals are set to play the 13th easiest schedule, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
The other reason Barnwell cites an improvement from the Bengals? The return of some big names to the field and probable improvement in the redzone.
The Bengals, to start, were decimated by absences. A.J. Green and Jonah Williams, the team’s best receiver and most important offensive lineman, each missed the entire season with injuries. They struggled with the fifth-most injured offense in football by adjusted games lost. Red zone performance is relatively random from year to year, and while the Bengals ranked 21st in red zone trips last season, they were the second-worst offense in the league in terms of points per red zone possession. (They were the league’s second-best red zone offense in 2018.)
Considering how unorthodox this offseason has been and season will be, it is hard to say injuries or players being out couldn’t play a part this season again. However, the idea of having guys like Green and Williams on the field with all the bright spots from the end of last season makes a season where this team could easily achieve five to six wins fairly easily, which is what Barnwell is predicting.
How many wins do you think the Bengals will end up with in 2020?