Sunday night’s Chiefs-Bengals game was billed as one of those that sorts out who is “for real” and who isn’t in the AFC. And although I had my suspicions about the Bengals before they got dragged all over the field Sunday night, I can now say with a certain degree of confidence that the Bengals are toast.
And not just this season. The Bengals are toast until they blow it up and start over. And then maybe for a while after that too.
Somehow, Cincinnati was 4-2 entering Sunday’s game. I say “somehow” because the Bengals are neither good at offense nor good at defense. The Bengals and Chiefs are the only NFL teams that have already allowed 3,000 yards, but unlike the Chiefs, the Bengals don’t have an offense to make up for it. Cincinnati is 19th in total offense, and has allowed almost almost 100 more yards per game than it has gained.
Still, the Bengals have wins over a few decent teams — the Dolphins (4-3), Ravens (4-3), and Cowboys (3-4).
But Sunday night was a breaking point. Kansas City outgained Cincinnati 551-239, the big difference of course coming in the passing game. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes thew for 358 yards and four touchdowns, and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton threw for 148 yards and one touchdown.
The way things are going in the NFL these days, that’s just about everything you need to know.
The Bengals are not cut out for what the NFL is rapidly becoming. They average 250 passing yards per game, which puts them in the bottom third of the league. They’ve been excellent in the red zone this year, which is why they’re averaging as many points as they are (26.3, 11th), but nothing about the Bengals’ offense suggests that’s going to hold up over the next nine games. They’re one of the league’s worst rushing teams (86.3 yards per game) and their quarterback is Andy Dalton, who, as in most years, is sitting right in the middle of the pack in terms of passing yards, and closer to the bottom in yards per attempt, with more than one interception per game and a rating of 90.9, which is also a little below average.
The Bengals are pointless.
This is no longer a young team. Dalton, wide receiver A.J. Green and sacks leader Geno Atkins are all 30, and their second-best pass rusher, Carlos Dunlap, is 29. (Both Atkins and Dunlap singed extensions with Cincinnati before this season). Further, Green has just a year and a half left on a four-year deal he signed in 2015, and seems in no hurry to sign a new contract with the Bengals, who won 12 games in 2015 but are 17-21 since.
Dalton’s contract is a relative bargain, and he has two years left on it after this one. For that reason, the Bengals aren’t racing to come up with a new deal for Dalton. But they should take it a step further this offseason and find their next franchise quarterback (assuming it is not Jeff Driskel).
Because as it is, the franchise is going nowhere fast in a league that is changing even faster.
As Broncos cornerback Chris Harris put it earlier this year, “If you don’t put up 30, you don’t win. It’s different. It’s different in this NFL.”
The Bengals teams that won 43 games between 2012 and 2015 played in a different league. It was a league in which you could win 11 or 12 games with an average offense and a great run defense. That’s what the Bengals did the last time they were good, 2015, when they ranked 15th in passing 13th in rushing and 7th in rush defense — and went 12-4.
But Cincinnati isn’t even stopping the run anymore. Only six teams have give up more rushing yards, and they had a hell of a time getting Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt on the ground Sunday night.
The Bengals 4-3 record is an illusion. They’re behind the times and only falling further.