Marvin Lewis has been the head coach of the Bengals for 13 seasons, and in all that time, he’s won exactly zero playoff games. The knock on Lewis has always been that his teams are pathologically incapable of winning in the postseason, but it seems likely that he won’t be able to add to that legacy, since the Bengals are now 3-5-1 after a 21-20 loss to the Giants tonight. Cincinnati was in it the entire game, but they crumbled against the Giants’ pass rush in the second half and somehow allowed the terrible Giants rushing attack to move the ball.
The AFC North is still up in the air, but the Bengals are not exactly inspiring this year. Like most of last season’s elite teams, they are scuffling through a fairly forgettable follow up season.
Their offensive line in particular has made them vulnerable. Andy Dalton is tough to bring down, but he’s already been sacked eight more times through nine games this year then he was over the duration of the 2015 season. The Giants brought him down thrice tonight, harried him into a pick, and held the Bengals to 2-for-11 on third down. The following photo is an accurate summation of the night that the team’s line had.
Dalton did find Tyler Eifert for a 71-yard gain on the Bengals’ second play from scrimmage, yet aside from that play, he only had 133 yards. A.J. Green is still God’s honest truth out there, but the ultra efficient passing game that helped the Bengals win the AFC North last season is not there this season. They aren’t flat-out bad like their fellow Ohioans, they are just ordinary. FiveThirtyEight has them as the least likely playoff team out of the three AFC North contenders.
An optimist would note that the team has played one of the league’s most difficult schedules thus far, and they still have a game to play against the Browns. But a pessimist would point out that the Bengals’ three wins have come against the Jets, Browns, and Dolphins, and that Pittsburgh gets to play the Browns twice. The only way into the playoffs is to win the division, and for all their talent at a series of skill positions, they don’t appear to have the line strength to get there. Their longest run of the night was an Andy Dalton scramble after all.