|By Dave Biddle|
The Cincinnati Bengals enter their bye week exactly halfway through the regular season with a 3-4-1 record. They tied the Washington Redskins 27-27 in London, England, last Sunday – a game in which the Bengals led by 10 in the second half. Kicker Mike Nugent missed an extra point following the Bengals’ second touchdown, and unfortunately for Cincinnati and the former Ohio State standout, it turned out to be the difference between tying and winning.
Let’s take a look at some other pertinent information as the Bengals attempt to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season:
** In my estimation, the Bengals will need to go 6-2 after their bye to make the playoffs. And event that wouldn’t guarantee they would make it. I think they would get in as a wildcard with a 9-6-1 record, but it just depends on how things play out with other playoff contenders in the AFC. Obviously, if two wildcard contenders finish with a 10-6 mark, the Bengals would be on the outside looking in at the playoffs at 9-6-1. Going 7-1 after the break would almost guarantee a spot in the playoffs for the Bengals at 10-5-1, but I don’t think this team is good enough – or well coached enough – to go on that type of run. Even 6-2 sounds like a stretch, but it is possible since the Bengals’ second-half of their schedule is much easier than the first-half was.
** The Bengals signed veteran defensive end Wallace Gilberry on Thursday, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. Gilberry spent four seasons with the Bengals (2012-15), and then signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the Detroit Lions this offseason. The Lions cut him on Oct. 11. Gilberry will be looked upon to help a Cincinnati pass rush that has been lackluster this season. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins are the only players on the roster that get consistent pressure on quarterbacks. The Bengals need someone else to step up. Not sure how much Gilberry will be able to help, but at least the Bengals are trying to shore up this problem. To make room for Gilberry, the Bengals cut cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris.
** Tight end Tyler Eifert has now played in two games after missing the first six of the season (ankle and back injuries), and you can immediately see the impact he has on this offense. Eifert hauled in nine receptions for 102 yards and a TD against the Redskins. Last season Eifert was one of the best red zone tight ends in the NFL when he collected 13 touchdowns.
** The biggest reason for the Bengals’ success the last five years? They’ve drafted well. A big reason why they’ve struggled much of the time this season? Their first-round picks in the last three drafts are either barely contributing or not contributing at all. In 2014, the Bengals took cornerback Darqueze Dennard in the first round. I thought it was a good pick. It wasn’t. The Bengals passed on Bradley Roby to take Dennard, and Roby is clearly better. Furthermore, Dennard was recently beaten out for the Bengals’ nickel back job by second-year corner Josh Shaw (who was a fourth-round pick). If you take a cornerback in the first round of the draft and by his third season he’s no better than your fourth-best corner? That’s pretty bad. Dennard is quickly reaching “bust” status. Same deal for right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi who the Bengals took in the first round in 2015, despite him coming off a torn ACL. Ogbuehi barely played in 2015 due to the injury, and took over as the starting right tackle this season. Ogbuehi was so bad he was benched in favor of journeyman veteran Eric Winston during the Bengals’ game against New England. Since then, Ogbuehi and Winston have been rotating. Again, if you take a player in the first round, you expect he’ll be a starter by his second season. And not just be a starter, but perform well enough to keep the job. And this year’s first-round pick, cornerback William Jackson, still has not played this season due to a torn pectoral suffered in camp. Not having much production from three consecutive first-round picks is a big reason the Bengals have a losing record halfway through the season.