The city of Cincinnati, Ohio has a long history of suffering due to sports-induced trauma. The Reds (baseball) managed to be average enough to stir up some hope that the city might have its first major professional sports title since 1990. The University of Cincinnati Bearcats, although successful in some sports-related endeavors, will always play second fiddle to the powerhouse down the road in Columbus. But if you really want to understand how Cincinnati sports make the locals feel, just mention the modern-era Bengals, and you will hear a collective apathetic sigh from every man, woman, and child that still has the energy to root for the maligned franchise.
If you asked me at the beginning of the season who the worst team would be, the answer would be an emphatic “Miami Dolphins.” Any NFL fan not wearing homer goggles could see that the franchise is actively tanking and that if they didn’t get to play the Jets twice, they would be a lock for the third 0-16 season in NFL history. Things have already gone the Dolphins’ way this year as the said Jets handed victory on an Adam-Gase-inspired platter to the Dolphins squad. That victory leaves the Cincinnati Bengals (hereby referred to as “the Kittens”) as the only team yet to win a game. The 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns need to hold off on their champagne popping ceremonies in their exclusive no-win club because the 2019 Cincinnati Kittens might be up for a membership with them this year.
What Exactly Caused These Kittens to Lose Their Claws?
Marvin Lewis (former CIN head coach) leaving is the primary culprit, even if he should have been fired 10 years ago. Stability among the players and coaching staff is always a positive for a team. However, that doesn’t automatically mean a stabilized team could win a playoff game if Vontaze Burfict told them to at gunpoint in a dark alleyway. Andy Dalton, a borderline franchise QB, has absolutely crumbled under new Coach Zac Taylor’s system, posting nine touch downs and eight interceptions and having a dismal 34.7 QBR. This is in spite of the fact that Taylor was hired from the Los Angeles Rams as a Quarterback Specialist. But the problems for Taylor and Dalton truly stem from the true downfall of this team’s offense, an area many teams around the league constantly have issues with: the offensive line.
The Bengals offensive line is currently 24th in the league when it comes to sack percentage per passing attempt with Andy Dalton getting sacked on about 8% of his dropbacks so far this season. This is in spite of the fact that Andy Dalton has the quickest release of any QB active on an NFL roster (Cam Newton is slightly quicker, but he is on IR for the rest of the season). This, plus the fact the Kittens’s running game only averages 3.2 yards per attempt (32nd out of 32 in the NFL) with two decent running backs, Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, means we have our case for potentially the worst line in the NFL. This “offensive” offensive line is almost certainly the cause of most of Cincy’s offensive woes. Losing their number one receiver, A.J. Green, for most of the season doesn’t help, but when you are getting hit before any receiver in the NFL can get open, you don’t have a formula for a productive offense. Cincinnati’s defense is no strong point either, but they do a fairly mediocre job of slowing down offenses when their own offense doesn’t give the ball away in bad field position. They allow an average of 435.8 yards per game, which is the most allowed yards in the entire NFL.
I wouldn’t put my money on Cincinnati under almost any circumstance, even in their week 16 matchup against Miami. The spread might look tempting, but with the start they’ve had this season, I believe this team is beyond fixing. They truly might lose the rest of their games handedly. Line betting on an underdog would be much better on teams like Denver, Tampa Bay, or Tennessee. These teams have patterns of losing very tight games. The Bengals lose by an average of 10.7 points per game while Denver, Tampa Bay, and the Titans lose by less than three on average. Outside of week 16, I don’t see an opponent on the Bengals schedule that should be a tight matchup, and I would especially avoid this week’s game against the red-hot Ravens who might just put up 50 points.