The Cincinnati Bengals were blasted on the road in Pittsburgh Saturday, and after a three-game winning streak behind backup quarterback Jake Browning, reality may be starting to set in.
It’s either that, or the Steelers just find a way to consistently have the Bengals' number. Regardless, Browning didn’t look like the quarterback we’ve seen for the past month, and the Bengals got little going with both Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase sidelined.
Their playoff odds have now dropped to 18%, per the New York Times. That said, with the Kansas City Chiefs on deck in Week 17, let’s dive into where the national media is placing Cincinnati relative to others around the league.
NFL.com — No. 14 - Down from No. 16
Jake Browning’s worst game came at a pretty tough time, as did Ja’Marr Chase’s injury. Even if the 34-11 defeat at Pittsburgh wasn’t the final stake in Cincinnati’s heart, it inflicted a ton of damage to its already-fleeting playoff chances. But there’s also a bigger picture to consider for this Bengals season, which has to start with their 0-5 division record. It’s been over two decades since Cincinnati went winless in the North, even before Marvin Lewis’ time as coach. Joe Burrow started three of those five losses, by the way. The Bengals have changed the arc of the franchise, winning the past two AFC North titles under Zac Taylor, but Saturday’s blowout loss revealed a worrisome weakness. They were absolutely dominated on both lines of scrimmage, getting out-toughed by a team with even lower playoff odds and one that was starting its third QB of the season.
USA Today — No. 20 - Down from No. 12
A team that’s won the past two AFC North championships is on the verge of going 0-6 in divisional play this season.
Sporting News — No. 16 - Down from No. 11
Jake Browning may have lost one too many weapon with Ja’Marr Chase not available and the sample size remains small. Cincinnati has done well to stay alive without Joe Burrow, but getting swept badly by Pittsburgh without him might be enough to keep it out of a wild-card playoff spot.
Yahoo! Sports — No. 14 - Down from No. 10
Having a flat spot with Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow out isn’t the end of the world. But the Bengals have little margin for error. Their playoff chances got better with some losses around the rest of the AFC wild-card race in Week 16, but they might need to beat the Chiefs and Browns in the final two weeks. Not easy.
Pro Football Talk — No. 14 - Down from No. 11
The Jake Browning chariot turned into a pumpkin. Like it does for most backup quarterbacks not named Tom Brady or Kurt Warner.
CBS Sports — No. 16 - Down from No. 12
Their playoff push hit a halt in the loss to the Steelers. Jake Browning came back to reality.