The Cincinnati Bengals dropped to 5-6 after a Week 12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. While Jake Browning played well in the wake of Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury, he didn’t quite explode onto the scene like we’ve seen over the last few weeks.
Browning then erupted against the Jags in a 34-31 Monday Night Football road victory for Cincinnati. The Bengals then came home for a Week 14 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. They blasted Indy 34-14, winning the second half 20-0.
That said, Cincinnati is 7-6 and firmly back in the playoff hunt. Let’s dive into where national media has ranked Cincinnati with just four weeks remaining in the 2023 regular season.
ESPN — No. 14 - Up from No. 19
In the first five weeks of the regular season, the Bengals had the highest rate of offensive drives that were three-and-outs (32.1%), according to ESPN Stats & Information. That number has dropped considerably since that span. Over the past nine weeks, the Bengals have reduced that rate to 21.2% and are ranked 14th in that category. And the improvement has continued even with Jake Browning at quarterback instead of an injured Joe Burrow (wrist). Cincinnati’s three-and-out rate is 15.2% in Browning’s three starts. —Ben Baby
CBS Sports — No. 13 - Up from No. 20
Zac Taylor has done an outstanding job with this team. They have won two straight with Jake Browning to get back into the playoff race.
Pro Football Talk — No. 13 - Up from No. 17
Jake Browning is the new Josh Dobbs. Will the magic last longer this time?
Yahoo! Sports— No. 10 - Up from No. 13
I’m very interested in the Bengals now. They seem to have a different energy trying to save their season around Jake Browning, who is doing a great job in replacing Joe Burrow. The Bengals have beat two playoff contenders in a row and look like a playoff team themselves.
NFL.com — No. 13 - Up from No. 18
The Bengals dominated a game against a playoff contender, and Jake Browning once again was terrific overall, even taking into account a poor pick-six that briefly gave the Colts life just before halftime. Browning has now led Cincinnati to two consecutive 30-point showings, which even Joe Burrow didn’t manage to do this season. The return of Tee Higgins has clearly helped, but he and Ja’Marr Chase combined for just five catches Sunday. The Bengals leaned on a terrific screen game and continued to get tight end Tanner Hudson involved, as Browning connected on 18 passes to nine different pass catchers. It was also a good day for a beat-up Cincy defense, which may have had its best showing since October. That group entered the game 32nd in yards allowed per game, but kept the Colts to two gains longer than 16 yards on Sunday.
USA Today — No. 14 - Up from No. 21
QB2 Jake Browning’s 79.3% completion rate through his first three starts is a record during the Super Bowl era (since 1966). He and Chad Pennington are the only ones in that span to connect on 70% of their passes and post a QB rating of at least 95.0 through their initial three starts, Browning’s rating an astronomical 113.4.
FOX Sports — No. 18 - Up from No. 21
How many NFL fans knew who Jake Browning was 10 days ago? How many Cincinnatians knew, for that matter? You’ve got to love sports, where you’re only ever one or two great performances from being the toast of the town. With Joe Burrow sidelined, the Bengals are playing with house money. I hope they keep approaching things that way.