Through four games, the Bengals have been utterly embarrassed twice (Browns and Titans), lost a close game (Ravens), and beat the Rams. Things don’t look great from where the team sits right now, but all is not lost.
Here is where I’d rattle off a few things I noticed about the game on Sunday, but I’m not going to do that this week. I can’t talk about it, and I’m sure you don’t want to read it.
So let’s play “yes... but.”
Here’s how it works. I’m going to make a true statement about the Bengals, either good or bad, and then I’m going to argue against that statement. That doesn’t make any sense.
You’ll get what I mean.
Here we go.
YES, the Bengals are 1-3, in last place in the division, and have an uphill battle to fight if they’re going to win the division for a third consecutive year.
BUT.... if they beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, they’ll be in the same exact spot they were in in 2022. They’ll be 2-3 and 0-2 in the division. They lost the AFC Championship by three points on a last-second field goal after that 2-3 start. There are absolutely ZERO reasons they can’t do the same exact thing.
YES, Joe Burrow is a shadow of himself right now and is clearly not fully healthy. Defenses know it, and they’re really pinning their ears back.
BUT.... Burrow has said himself that he’s feeling better. He was able to go full in practice last week, and I expect him to look a little healthier this week. Unless you think this calf strain has drained Burrow of all his abilities to win football games in the NFL, then this is just temporary, and the offense will be just fine. Hopefully soon.
YES, the Bengals came into the 2023 season having extended both of their linebackers, and they still have DJ Reader and B.J. Hill in the middle, as well as Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson on the edge.
BUT.... that hasn’t mattered very much. The defense, which has prided itself on shutting down the run, has given up the second-most rushing yards so far this season, behind only the Broncos. If the Bengals were going to be beaten on defense, you would have thought it would be through the air, with Chidobe Awuzie coming back from injury and two new safeties. That hasn’t been as big of an issue, though. So far, the Bengals front seven hasn’t been able to stop the run.
YES, Joe Burrow is planning on playing this weekend, at least according to Zac Taylor’s press conference on Monday.
BUT.... should he? You’re telling me that an offense consisting of the best wide receiver trio in the league (depending on Tee Higgins’ health, of course), Joe Mixon, and an expensive and talented offensive line (we’re not going to talk about tight end) is incapable of scoring more than three points with a backup quarterback? Jake Browning can’t throw the ball? Isn’t he in the NFL? If Sunday’s deficient offensive showing was mostly due to Burrow’s health, that’s one thing, but if it wasn’t...... that’s a huge problem. If it’s his health, please sit him and let him rest.
YES, the Bengals have done a great job putting together winning teams over the last few years. They’ve drafted well and signed the right free agents.
BUT.... I think they made some mistakes heading into the 2023 season. I think heading into the season with an attitude of “it’s Irv Smith Jr. or bust” at tight end was a big mistake. He’s had a lot of injury issues in the past (he hasn’t played the last two games), and when he did play, he really didn’t do much. Tanner Hudson had more yards in the first half of the team’s Week 3 win over the Rams than Smith had in the first two games. I also think the backup quarterback position, once Burrow pulled up lame in training camp, should have been addressed. If it had been, the Bengals could be in a much better position heading into Week 5. But hindsight is 20/20.
YES, the Bengals have probably the most talented offense in the NFL.
BUT.... they can’t do anything if their quarterback is not 100 percent healthy? I have news for you! This is the NFL. No players are 100 percent healthy after the first couple of weeks of the season. The more Burrow plays now, the longer it will take to get to 100 percent. If they can’t use the talent on the offense to scheme for more than 211 total yards and one field goal, then someone else needs to be calling plays!
Here’s the deal. I think the best thing the Bengals could do right now, both for their long-term goal of winning the Super Bowl this season and winning the next two games, is shutting down Burrow until the bye and then re-assessing where he’s at.
The offense isn’t working, with Burrow unable to move around, and at this point, I think they need to turn the ball over to someone who is healthy and can hopefully move the ball better. That way, Burrow can focus all his energy on getting healthier, and if he’s not completely back by Week 8 when they travel to face the 49ers, then I guess they’ll cross that bridge if and when they get there.
The season isn’t lost. We may be on the outside looking in when it comes to winning the division, but we’ve seen wildcard teams win the Super Bowl before. They just have to get healthy and get hot at the right time. They did it last year. They can do it again.
However, we’re approaching the event horizon. If they don’t get it right soon, it won’t matter if they do eventually or not because their playoff window will be closed.
So yeah. This is me saying they should sit Burrow.
What do you think?