By Joel Deering
Anytime your team starts 2-0, you have to feel pretty good about it. Bengals fans are probably feeling pretty good right now, and they should be. The Cincinnati Bengals have started the season 2-0, a spot not many thought they’d be in. This team went 7-9 last year, which obviously isn’t what you want from your team. There’s still a long way to go in the season, but so far this Bengals team hasn’t looked like a team who’s going 7-9 again.
So what’s behind the Bengals’ good start to the 2018 season? Of course you can always say it’s AJ Green, who had 3 TD catches last night against the Ravens. AJ Green is always going to be a huge factor for this team, but he’s not the main reason why the Bengals have started the season off so well. Through two games, there are two main factors I’ve seen as to why the Bengals are 2-0. One reason is on offense, with the other on defense.
1. Offensive Line
The play of the Bengals’ offensive line has been outstanding through the first two games of the season. In Week 1 against the Colts, the offensive line allowed 2 sacks and 3 QB hits. Last night against the Ravens, they allowed 0 sacks and 4 QB hits. In two games, the Bengals have allowed 2 sacks and 7 QB hits. If the offensive line kept that pace throughout the entire season, that would come out to 16 sacks and 56 QB hits allowed.
Last year’s best offensive line in terms of sacks allowed was the Chargers’ offensive line, who allowed just 18 sacks throughout the season. Right now the Bengals are on pace to be better than that. The least amount of QB hits last year came from the Raiders, who allowed 51. The second place team was Saints, who allowed 58. The Bengals are on pace to be right around those two teams from last year.
Last season the Bengals allowed 40 sacks (ranked 19th), and 64 QB hits (ranked 4th). They were pretty good in terms of QB hits last year, but you can see by the numbers that a lot of those hits were sacks. This year they’re on pace to allow a ton less sacks, and fewer QB hits. In the first two games, Andy Dalton has had a lot of time in the pocket to make good throws, which you’ve seen being translated into touchdowns.
2. Defensive Line
Against the Colts in Week 1, the defensive line got 2 sacks and 9 QB hits on Andrew Luck. Last night against the Ravens, the Bengals got 4 sacks and 8 QB hits. That brings them to a total of 6 sacks and 17 QB hits through two games. Last season, the Bengals were tied for 11th in sacks with 41. In two games this season, they’ve put themselves on pace to get 48 sacks, which would have been tied for 4th best last season.
When it comes to QB hits, I couldn’t find the numbers for how many each team got last season, so I went back to the numbers for how many QB hits each team allowed last year. The Bengals are on pace to get 136 QB hits this season, which is more than the most QB hits allowed by a team last season (Browns – 130 allowed).
Those numbers tell me that the Bengals’ defensive line is putting some serious pressure on opposing QB’s. You saw it in last night’s game against the Ravens. The Ravens couldn’t get anything going for a while, which led to the Bengals taking a big lead. The pressure on Joe Flacco forced him to throw two interceptions. The Ravens made their comeback attempt, but the Bengals made a big play to seal the win by forcing Flacco to fumble late in the fourth quarter.
Can They Keep It Up?
Cincinnati has been getting great play from both their offensive and defensive lines through the first two games of the season, which has led them to a 2-0 start. Now the question becomes, can they keep it up? If they can, the Bengals have the makings of a playoff team. If they can’t, well then they’ll probably end up being 7-9 again. I love what I’ve seen from the Bengals at both of these position groups so far, and I think there’s a good chance they can keep it up throughout the rest of the season.
What do you think? Will the Bengals make the playoffs this year?