|By Dave Biddle|
Have the Cincinnati Bengals been eliminated from playoff contention? No, they could theoretically still make it, but fans of the team should prepare for the first non-playoff season since 2010.
The Bengals fell to 3-5-1 with their 21-20 loss at the New York Giants last week, in a game where Marvin Lewis once again put on a clinic of “What Not To Do” in terms of clock management. Lewis is in his 14th season as Bengals’ head coach, and still routinely makes the mistakes of a rookie head coach.
With 1:11 left in the second quarter against the Giants, Lewis and the Bengals took their time on their first two plays, chewing up 54 seconds of the clock. Once Lewis realized the Bengals could get into field goal range, it was too late and they had to settle for a hail mary pass that fell incomplete. It was nearly the same scenario that took place in the Bengals-Browns game on Oct. 23, just this time Andy Dalton and A.J. Green didn’t bail out Lewis by making an incredible touchdown.
As hard as it is to say, the best thing for the Bengals right now would be to lose as many games as possible the rest of this season. The reasoning is twofold: The Bengals would get better draft picks of course. But most-importantly, it might finally force Mike Brown’s hand to make a change at head coach. It reminds me of Ohio State near the end of the 2000 season. Some Buckeye fans were actually hoping OSU would finish poorly so Andy Geiger would finally get rid of John Cooper and hire a new coach. Jim Tressel was hired in January of 2001, and Ohio State has been the dominant force in the Big Ten ever since.
Now, I don’t think a coaching change would turn the Bengals into a dominant team, but Lewis has taken this team as far as he can. It’s time for a change.
As for this Sunday’s game, the Bengals will host the Buffalo Bills (4-5) at 1 p.m. ET. Despite it being a contest featuring two AFC teams, the game will be televised on FOX, not CBS.
The Bengals are 2.5-point favorites over the Bills, a team that comes to Cincinnati dealing with more than their fair share of injuries. If the Bengals can pull this one out, they’ll still have a chance at winning the AFC North championship. A wildcard berth is probably out at this point (both wildcard teams will likely come from the loaded AFC West) but with the Baltimore Ravens (5-4) and Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) not having stellar seasons, the Bengals could work their way to being in the mix for a divisional crown.
However, again, I find that extremely unlikely. This Bengals team has shown no signs of a club that could go on a 6-1 or 7-0 run to end the season, and that’s probably what it would take to win the AFC North. The good news is the Bengals do play the Ravens twice down the stretch – and the Steelers once – so they will have opportunities to make up ground.
The worst thing that could happen to the Bengals is they finish something like 7-8-1, don’t make the playoffs, but don’t finish poorly enough where Lewis is given his walking papers. That’s why I say it’s time for Who Dey Nation to swallow a difficult pill and hope for a bunch of losses to close out the 2016 season. It’s a necessary evil as far as removing Lewis and finding a competent head coach to lead the team.
Prediction: Bills 24, Bengals 20