The Bengals have made the playoffs for the 2nd straight year, but like last year, they did it by winning the games they were supposed to and nothing else (well not technically nothing else this year, but close to it). The Bengals went 9-0 against non-playoff teams last season, but 0-7 against playoff teams, a number that grew to 0-8 when they lost to the Texans in the first round of the playoffs.
This year, it was more of the same, as went 9-4 against non-playoff teams and 1-2 against playoff teams (I’m counting the Ravens week 17 in the former rather than the latter because they rested their starters, which doesn’t really count). That 1 win against a playoff team that was actually trying came against the Redskins, a game in which the Redskins lost left tackle Trent Williams for the game with injury. Those were also the same pre-bye Redskins who lost to the Panthers and went 3-6 to start the season. And that’s Andy Dalton’s only legitimate win over a playoff team in his career.
In those 11 games, Dalton is a combined 236 of 415 (56.9%) for 2807 yards (6.8 YPA), 12 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. In the other 19 games, he’s 420 of 679 (61.9%) for 4518 yards (6.7 YPA), 35 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. The good news for the Bengals, they are better around Dalton this year than last year that they did beat some good non-playoff teams. Wins against the Steelers and Giants are impressive, even though those two teams missed the playoffs.
They have one of the best defensive lines in football and they’ve had one of the best overall defenses in the game over the 2nd half of the season, in which they’ve gone 7-1 (albeit against a weak schedule). They have plenty of momentum heading into the playoffs and they are overall in better position to beat the Texans than they were last year, even though the Texans didn’t have Matt Schaub last year, as the Texans are skidding and have really missed Brian Cushing, while the Bengals are a better team. However, I think it’s once again one and done for the Bengals.
Projected fate: Lose to Texans in Wild Card round