After a season in which the Cincinnati Bengals made a magical playoff run to the top spot in franchise history. Super Bowl appearance since 1988, the team did not get off to the fast start that many experts expected in 2022. The Bengals lost their first two games and struggled to get above .500 for most of the year. But after the worst defeat of the season 32-13 away loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, Cincinnati picked up a win over the rebuilding Carolina Panthers to start their farewell week with 5-4 entry.
This victory puts the Bengalis in exactly the same position they faced a year ago. For second season in a row, the team will enter Week 11 with a goodbye and just one game above .500. Since the memories of last year are still fresh, you can’t blame the Bengals fans for thinking their team can do it again. But how realistic is it to expect Cincinnati to flip the switch again in the second half of the season based on his performance so far?
In other words, not very. As we noted, even before the second half of last year, Cincinnati was already exceeded all expectations with these young core. Now, after that run, expectations were much higher – and the Bengals have yet to live up to them. Of course, another run is possible and our model still gives the Bengals a chance. 47 percent chance to make the postseason. But there’s a tough set of games ahead, and the team’s inconsistency could make it difficult to recreate the same successful streak that saved Cincinnati’s 2021 campaign.
The first and probably the most difficult task for the Bengals is to win the upcoming games. By average pre-match Elo ratings Of their opponents, the Bengals’ schedule was the fourth-easiest in the NFL until Week 10. Now, in the second half, the team faces the toughest remaining schedule in the league. This is perhaps the biggest swing in terms of the strength of the schedule difference between halves of the season for any team this season. (At the beginning of the year, Cincinnati’s schedule was the 10th most difficult.)
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Cincinnati is familiar with this situation as it has experienced busy schedule last season too. And to their credit, the Bengals went 3-1 against eventual playoff teams in that stretch. However, this team faced an easier remaining schedule from several different perspectives than this year’s group. On the one hand, based current position, six of Cincinnati’s last eight rivals are in the playoffs. And if we look at Elo again, the Bengals’ 2021 schedule has moved from 27th in difficulty after their week 10 farewell to sixth for the remainder of the season.
This meant that their schedule difference between future and past was fifth in the league at this point in the season – just a tough road ahead, not the toughest corner in football like in 2022.
Up to this point, Cincinnati’s strongest opponents have been their enemies AFC North. bengals winless in division games (0-3) after last year’s 4-2 result. But there’s a silver lining to this division: The fickleness of their rivals keeps Cincinnati in second place in the North with a huge chance of taking the title from Baltimore. (They have an 11 percent chance of winning a division in our model, which is admittedly much less than the Ravens’ 85 percent, but hey, that’s not zero.) With a few division wins, they might have something.
And on the face of it, the Bengals’ offensive performance is comparable to what it was during Week 9 last year, which only contributes to the notion that the division will straighten the ship and make the playoffs in the second half. The offense publishes both passing and yard-per-game averages that are nearly identical to 2021 figures. But like the rest of the AFC North, Cincinnati has its own stability issues, especially on offense. According to Football outsidersCincinnati has the highest DVO variance throughout the league this season. In other words, the Bengals were statistically the least consistent team in the NFL every week.
This difference is most obvious when looking at the divergence in the performances of the teams based on the results of the games. In Cinsi’s five wins, the offense is averaging over 32 points per game and 410 yards per game. In terms of losses, those averages fall below 17 points per game and just over 300 yards per game. While it’s fair to expect the team to lose worse than it wins, Cincinnati’s average win-loss gap of 15.5 points is the third-largest of any team this season.
Similarly, quarterback Joe Burrow has also been volatile on more than one occasion this year. On wins, Burrow averages 73.7 total QBR, the sixth best in football. However, in casualties, his QBR is only 36.9, which is 20th. And this is not only the result of having to perform more difficult shots, lagging behind on the scoreboard. According to NFL Next Generation Statistics, which can help us adjust the difficulty of each pass attempt, Burrow leads the league with a +7.4 percentage completion over expected (CPOE) in Bengals wins this season. But in terms of losses, he takes only 18th place (minus 2.8).
Whenever you analyze Burrow’s game, you must also consider the effectiveness of his attacking line – and even after rebuilding in the offseason, this part is again poor pass defense. O-line Bengals allowed Burrow to be sacked 32 times (ranked third in the NFL) and has second-highest win rate for passing blocks only 47 percent. The division is also giving Burrow even less time in the pocket as the Bengals’ average has dropped from 2.4 seconds last year to 2.2 seconds. While that may not seem like such a big deal, keep in mind that only half a second separated the best in the league (Philadelphia, 2.6 seconds) from the worst (Pittsburgh, 2.1 seconds) in this metric. a year ago. So missing that extra one-fifth of a second can make all the difference.
Despite all the cons, Cincinnati has almost chance of a coin toss to return for the postseason. This year the AFC is not as strong as in previous years: Only five teams there is a winning record outside of the top four divisions (Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Cincinnati), and three reside in the AFC East, where one would assume they would beat each other. during the rest of the season. Against this background, a team like the Bengals (whose differential plus 4.8 points per game actually ranked fifth in the league) might not look so bad after all.
But they still need to accumulate victories. Since the NFL expanded the playoffs in each conference to seven teams in 2020, the bottom seed has averaged 9.4 wins per season. The Bengals need to finish 5-3 against the league’s toughest schedule to get 10 wins, an additional degree of difficulty from last season. But if Cinsi finds a way to do it, we could see the Bengals do their magic again in the postseason.
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