It was a brutal loss, not because the Bengals are now 5-5, but because Joe Burrow was injured for the season. He will now be sidelined with a torn wrist ligament, a brutal blow for a team that has made it to the AFC Championship Game in two straight seasons.
Losing to Baltimore does keep the Bengals in sole possession of last place in the AFC North. The season has been full of ups and downs, but this is the lowest Cincinnati has looked, and that includes their disheartening Week 4 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
That said, let’s dive into where the national media now ranks the Bengals.
NFL.com — No. 18 - Down from No. 12
No matter how you spin it, the Joe Burrow injury is a near-fatal blow to the Bengals. Because even if Jake Browning is Kurt Warner 2.0, Cincinnati’s still just 5-5 right now, in last place in a very competitive division with bad tiebreakers (0-3 vs. the AFC North, 1-5 vs. all AFC teams) and a very tough schedule with no gimme games left. On top of that, we don’t know when WR Tee Higgins might be ready to go, and the banged-up defense has taken a step backward in the past two games, allowing 949 yards combined. A season that began with Super Bowl aspirations is suddenly on the brink. Browning handled himself OK in relief on Thursday, and it will be a great story if he shines, but Cincy has ample work ahead.
ESPN — No. 14 - Down from No. 10
The 2021 second-round pick isn’t seeing the field — he isn’t even active on game days. Carman has been inactive in seven of 10 games. In the other three instances, he has seen the field just once. Veteran offensive lineman Cody Ford has proved to be the team’s No. 6 offensive lineman and has been active in six games. If the Bengals cut Carman this offseason, the team gains $1.7 million in cap savings and incurs less than $700,000 in dead money. — Ben Baby
USA Today — No. 26 - Down from No. 10
All due respect to Jake Browning, but Cincinnati seems dead in the water without QB1 Joe Burrow.
FOX Sports — No. 15 - Down from No. 12
Obviously, the 34-20 loss in Baltimore is not why I’m dropping the Bengals. There’s no shame in losing to the Ravens on the road when your starting quarterback goes down. The issue is that Joe Burrow won’t be back this season, which changes the calculus of what the Bengals are capable of the rest of the way.
The Ringer — No. 16
With the season-ending injury to Joe Burrow, the Bengals’ season is practically over. They aren’t mathematically eliminated, sure. But backup quarterback Jake Browning, even if he’s an average QB2, can’t make this offense work. Burrow’s creativity, toughness, decisiveness, and arm talent have long hidden a poor running game and below-average offensive line—Browning ain’t pulling that off.
And defensively? The Bengals have one of the shakiest units. Musical chairs in the secondary have made them highly susceptible to the big play, and selling out for a better pass rush hurts their integrity against the run. There just isn’t enough in Cincinnati without Burrow to keep this afloat. —Ben Solak
Sporting News — No. 15 - Down from No. 14
The Bengals’ season was on the line in Baltimore and not only did they suffer one massive loss on the field on Thursday night, but they also were devastated by another Joe Burrow season cut short by injury. They are on the brink of accepting this is a totally lost year of AFC contention.
Yahoo! Sports — No. 18 - Down from No. 12
Unfortunately, we have to rank the Bengals without Joe Burrow for the rest of the season. There is a good infrastructure and maybe Jake Browning won’t completely wreck their season. But it’s still a step down and the Bengals have the NFL’s toughest remaining schedule. It’s hard to envision a .500 Bengals team making the playoffs now.
Pro Football Talk — No. 17 - Down from No. 14
No Burrow? Big problem.