The NFL Playoffs begin this weekend, while the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t among the 12 teams in the Super Bowl chase. They can provide a preview for how these playoffs might shape up.
The Bengals faced seven of the 12 Super Bowl contenders in 2016. They faced and beat the Detroit Lions in the preseason. While the Cincinnati Bengals faced the other six teams during the regular season. They included their AFC North foe Pittsburgh Steelers twice. They also included the top seeds in the NFC and AFC in back to back weeks.
Losing to both the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots in October. The Bengals also faced three other playoff participants in prime time. Including the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and Houston Texans. Of the six playoff teams the Bengals faced in the regular season. The Bengals only beat one of them, that being the Miami Dolphins.
So what could those seven games teach us about what to expect during the NFL Playoffs? Well, there’s actually a lot that we can learn from those games. The Detroit Lions preseason game might teach us the least because it was in the preseason. The Lions player that kept the Bengals on their toes was former Bengal Marvin Jones. However, after a hot start the Detroit sports media is on Jones’ case for his sluggish end to the regular season.
The first of the playoff contenders the Bengals faced was the Steelers. In both games against the Steelers this season, the Bengals had their chances to win. Both times the Bengals fell apart in the clutch. The Bengals offenses struggled in both Steelers games, With Giovani Bernard scoring the only Bengals touchdown in the Week 2 contest. While the Bengals offense practically disappeared in the second half of their week 15 contest.
Yet, in the Week 15 contest the Steelers offense had their struggles too. As Steelers kicker Chris Boswell did most of the scoring for the Steelers in that game. The Steelers in both games were aided by penalties or debatable calls against the Bengals. In that sense if the Miami Dolphins or any other opponent can avoid penalties and contain the Steelers offense. They’ll do well and likely advance deeper into January.
The Dolphins were the only team the Bengals beat in the regular season that qualified for the playoffs. The Bengals held the Dolphins to just one touchdown, winning 22-7. That lone touchdown came for the Dolphins in the first quarter. Though the Dolphins at the time were hampered by injury issues. A problem that’s still hampering them going into Wild Card Weekend; with quarterback Ryan Tannehill out due to a knee injury.
The other two prime time opponents, the New York Giants and Houston Texans provided stellar defensive challenges. The Texans game was the most recent; ending with Bengals Kicker Randy Bullock missing a potentially game winning field goal. Both the Bengals and Texans defenses mostly held strong in a low scoring game. The Giants game on the other hand featured more scoring. With the Bengals losing 20-21 in a game with stellar defense from both teams. Landon Collins interception effectively sealed it for the Giants in that game.
The Bengals held up strong against most of these playoff contenders. With two exceptions, the Cowboys and Patriots, both of whom beat the Bengals handily. The Bengals failed to score until the fourth quarter against the Cowboys. Meanwhile the Bengals held in there with the Patriots. Up until early in the fourth quarter of that game. In fact at a few points during that game the Bengals had the lead.
The Bengals had a great deal of experience against this season’s Super Bowl contenders. Most of those games showed football fans why those teams are in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy. While for the Bengals, how they performed against those opponents showcase why they aren’t among those contenders this year.