Hey, Bengals Fans: R-E-L-A-X
Hey, you. Yeah, you. The Bengals fan who clicked on this article, I’m talking to you.
What did you think, that the Bengals were going to go 17 - 0? Did you think they’d stomp everyone into tiny pieces and scatter them into the wind? Was that really what you thought?
Look, I get it. The Bengals are 0 - 2. Nobody, except for the trolliest of trolls on the internet, expected this. They’ve been beaten by Mitchell “The Trubiscut” Trubisky and Cooper “Who In the Hell Is This Guy” Rush. It’s not what we wanted, but it’s what we got.
And that’s okay. It’s been two weeks, everyone. Do I really have to channel Aaron Rodgers here? R-E-L-A-X.
0 - 2 isn’t the end of the world. Two teams this century have started 0 - 2 and won the Super Bowl - the ‘01 New England Patriots and the ‘07 New York Giants. Yes, the odds of the Bengals reaching the playoffs took a massive hit with the winless start, but if you were so worried about trends, why did you get excited for this season in the first place? We are all well aware of the “Super Bowl Hangover.” If you put so much stock into statistics and probabilities, your expectations should have been low anyway.
It’s two games. They have fifteen more to go. They get to play Joe Flacco and the New York Jets this Sunday, and before you lose your mind, yes, I’m aware that Flacco is a backup, and the Bengals can’t help but wet the bed when facing those terrifying second-string QBs. But this is Flacco. He has a career-losing record versus the Who Deys and has thrown 25 interceptions in 20 games. It may mean nothing, something, or everything, but I like our odds this Sunday.
Besides, let’s break down what happened last week versus the Cowboys and two weeks ago against the Steelers:
The offensive line has struggled to contain two of the best pass rushers in the NFL. T.J. Watt tied Michael Strahan’s sack record with 22.5 on the season, and was rightfully named Defensive Player of the Year for his effort. Micah Parson, who recorded 13.0 sacks last year on his way to being named Defensive Rookie of the Year, has 4.0 sacks already through two weeks and is currently the odds-on favorite to win his first DPoY. Most offensive lines will struggle against the Cowboys and Steelers fronts.
Of course, the Bengals offensive line has to play better. Tackles Jonah Williams and La’el Collins, in particular, need to step up their game. But the interior, which was a never-ending problem last year, has looked markedly better, and we’ve seen better performances from Williams and Collins in the past - they’re not likely to continue this surprising run of poor play.
Again, it’s been two games. The defense, which was the backbone of the team’s unexpected Super Bowl run, has picked up right where it left off. The Bengals have not played with a lead yet this year, so sack opportunities for Trey Hendrickson and company have been limited.
Turnovers have also been scarce, and they won't have any more games like Pittsburgh where they lose the battle five to zero. Cowboys reserve receiver Noah Brown had a couple back-breaking catches versus the secondary in the Dallas game, but for the most part they‘ve been rock solid. There have been moments where this entire team has looked in a funk, but the crazy part is they still only lost on two last second field goals.
The play calling isn’t wow-ing anyone, but I find play calling criticism to be so boring. We don’t know why or when certain plays will be called. We don’t know the game plan. For once, I’d love for someone to look at a 30-yard completion and say, “Should have run a toss sweep there.”
There were times last year where it looked like the sky was falling too. They lost to Mike White and the Jets. They lost to the Bears. They were swept by the Browns.
The situation is far from ideal. There’s a fair chance that, by the end of the year, I’m eating my words. But I choose to bet on Joe Burrow. I choose to bet on Ja’Marr Chase. I choose to bet on this team, this coaching staff, this organization, that has done all the right things, and earned my trust with last year’s playoff run. This team still has massive potential, and next week could be the start of a long winning streak.
It’s not going to be easy, but nothing about what the Bengals did last year was easy. I still believe in Burrow and the Boys. There’s too much talent. Last year’s team beat the odds - this Bengals team has the goods to beat them too.