2014 NFL Playoffs: 5 Reasons Why Cincinnati Bengals Will Fall Short
5 Reasons Why Cincinnati Bengals Won't Succeed in 2014 NFL Playoffs
The Cincinnati Bengals emerged out of the AFC North this season as what many might call the only team in the division deserving of a berth in the 2014 NFL Playoffs. While their divisional foes like the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers had their moments but ultimately faltered too often, the Bengals marched their way to an 11-5 record and the three seed in the AFC.
Playing as the three seed in the conference, the Bengals will be in action on the opening weekend of the postseason, taking on the sixth-seeded San Diego Chargers. The Chargers had a much different road to the playoffs, barely sneaking in on the last day of the regular season and being the beneficiaries of a blown call in that week 17 win.
Regardless of if the Bengals can get past San Diego in this first week of the playoffs (something I certainly wouldn’t call a formality), though, this Bengals team has shown for most of the season that they are seriously imperfect. You can tell me that all teams are flawed and that their 11 wins are all you need to know, but this is one of the most flawed 11 win teams that I’ve ever seen.
Cincinnati, just like any team in the postseason, definitely has the potential to get hot, have everything start falling their way, and make a run at the Super Bowl. However, I’m of the camp that believes that this team is going to fall well short of having their hands on the Lombardi Trophy. Don’t believe me? Here are five reasons why this Bengals team doesn’t have what it takes to be Super Bowl Champions.
Head Coach Marvin Lewis
Though he hasn’t had many glaring mistakes that the media has been able to pounce on, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has shown on a number of occasions in his tenure that he has a tendency to foul things up. While he’s avoided a dumbfounding blunder this year, there have still been times when he’s gone away from what’s been working or done something to that tune.
What Lewis’ impact in these playoffs really comes down to is the fact that it’s hard for me to trust him coming into a postseason matchup. Yes, he’s had success this season and that can’t be completely ignored. However, a successful regular season doesn’t erase his history or fully imitate the pressure of coaching in the playoffs. I still can’t think of Lewis as a coach that can lead a team to a Super Bowl.
Injuries on Defense
The Bengals defense, which has been one of the better units in the NFL this season, looks vastly different than it did to start the season. With key players like Geno Atkins, Robert Geathers and Taylor Mays all on IR and several other defensive players injured as well, this Bengals team has still found ways to remain solid.
However, remaining solid isn’t enough in the postseason. This team relies heavily on their defense to keep them in games and, though Cincy has been able to survive with a depleted defense to make it to the playoffs, I’m skeptical on how they’ll perform in a high-pressure situation.
Lack of Consistent Secondary Wide Receivers
A.J. Green is a monster and, now that he’s resumed practicing this week, I would expect him to have an impact on any success that the Bengals can find. However, Cincinnati’s receiving core gets a bit more muddled and a lot more inconsistent.
Marvin Jones came on late in the season, but his production overall has hardly been reliable. The same lack of reliability also applies to guys like Mohamed Sanu and Andrew Hawkins. Though the Bengals have done quite alright with this issue thus far, it could be a problem in the postseason.
Inconsistent Running Game
There’s no question that rookie running back Giovani Bernard has provided some life and excitement to this Bengals offense. However, he and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have hardly been the picture of a reliable rushing attack this season and, more often than not, have been either used confusingly or been hard to peg in terms of how they’ll produce.
One of the key things in the NFL Playoffs is to establish yourself on both sides of the ball. One of the keys for the Bengals establishing themselves is to get the ball moving at least relatively well on the ground. Though there’s talent in the backfield, I wouldn’t be the farm that they’ll be productive on a consistent basis.
If you haven’t heard my thoughts on Andy Dalton by now, I see him as probably the most befuddling quarterback and one of the most confusing players in the league. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a player who can look so good and then so bad on a game-to-game basis.
In terms of the postseason, Dalton legitimately has the potential to swing either way. If he comes out playing at a high level that he’s capable of, he could carry Cincy on a nice run through the playoffs. Contrarily, Dalton playing poorly could sink this team incredibly quick. When it comes to an inconsistent quarterback playing in a playoff game, though, it’s wise to expect less-than-ideal results.