The Cincinnati Bengals were widely considered a top-five team prior to the start of the season; however, after a 24-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns, the tides may be turning. Yes, it is just one game, but the Bengals looked very out of sync.
Both Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor weren’t worried about the direction the organization is headed, and after slow starts the last few seasons, both of which resulted in an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, why would there be concern?
The national media may not have viewed it in the same light, especially with teams like the Dallas Cowboys looking better than expected. That said, let’s dive into where the power rankings have placed the Cincinnati Bengals.
ESPN — No. 13 - Down from No. 3
Scott had a solid showing as the team’s new free safety in an otherwise underwhelming loss to the Browns. He was around the ball often and had a 14.4% completion percentage allowed as the nearest defender. That’s a good sign for a defensive group that is looking to replace safeties Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, who signed with other teams in free agency. — Ben Baby
NFL.com — No. 11 - Down from No. 5
What to do with the Bengals? On the one hand, it’s easy to write off Week 1’s disaster performance based on history. The Browns delivered a similarly humbling loss to Cincinnati last Halloween and have had the Bengals’ number defensively in recent meetings. Cincy also stunk in Week 1 last year, dropping a five-turnover clunker to Pittsburgh. Plus, Joe Burrow missed nearly all of training camp, which clearly hurt his and the offense’s timing. The Browns certainly deserve defensive credit. But it’s just hard to imagine Burrow’s struggles lingering or the Bengals enduring another game where Tee Higgins has eight targets and zero catches. Yet, like a year ago, the offensive line fell flat in the opener. That’s the one issue that worries me long term.
The Action Network — No. 11
CBS Sports — No. 13 - Down from No. 4
What was that against the Browns? Joe Burrow looked lost. So much for the idea that he didn’t need the preseason.
Fox Sports — No. 11
Don’t worry about the free fall in these rankings, Bengals fan. Your guys get another chance to make an impression this week against the Ravens. To be fair to them, they just might. We’ve seen the Bengals dig themselves out of 0-1 and 0-2 holes, so it’s OK if you don’t want to panic. But there’s still plenty to criticize after one of the league’s best offenses failed to score a single touchdown. Joe Burrow and the receivers will be fine, but Cinci’s offensive line looked woefully unready to deal with Cleveland’s pass rush.
Sports Illustrated — No. 11
The Bengals were a disaster Sunday, but as we wrote, this was a domino effect situation from the opening snap. There could not have been a worse Week 1 opponent, weather, injury report, etc. Burrow did not have any of his usual pocket finesse and instead became a sitting duck against a team that pummeled their offensive line through vulnerable gap blitzing. More teams will do that. The Bengals will adjust. New England, once upon a time in the Tom Brady era, was also vulnerable to similar pressures.
Yahoo! Sports — No. 6 - Down from No. 3
I can’t imagine the Bengals offense will look that bad again this season. Credit the Browns defense for a great job preventing Cincinnati from hitting any big plays or getting either of their alpha receives going. Tee Higgins had a shocking zero catches on eight targets and Ja’Marr Chase had just 39 yards. It was just a strange game for the Bengals.
Pro Football Network — No. 6 - Down from No. 3
The Bengals turned an 0-2 start in 2022 into an AFC Championship Game appearance, and they’ll have to rebound from another poor beginning in 2023.
Burrow looked abysmal, and it’s feasible to use his training camp calf injury, his lack of reps, or the treacherous weather conditions in Cleveland as an excuse. Cincinnati still has one of the league’s best rosters, but if they lose to the Ravens next week, they’ll have to drag themselves out of another 0-2 hole in an uber-competitive AFC.