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Thread: What has gone wrong with the NFL's collapsing teams, and lessons for 2019

  1. #1

    What has gone wrong with the NFL's collapsing teams, and lessons for 2019

    7:47 AM CT

    Bill Barnwell ESPN Staff Writer



    An entire middle class of NFL teams collapsed in November. Six organizations that had a viable shot of either winning their divisions or claiming wild-card spots simply fell apart over the past few weeks, opening up opportunities for the likes of the Cowboys, Seahawks and Broncos in the process. Favorites to make the postseason have seen their odds shrink or shrivel up entirely.

    I'm going to run through those six teams to see what went wrong. (Hint: It involves injuries!) I'll also be trying to find a lesson for them to learn heading into 2019 to avoid ending up in this situation again.

    I've used ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) to find the moment in recent memory where their playoff odds peaked and added their present playoff odds heading into Week 14. Let's start with a team that seemed like a playoff lock after Halloween before descending into disaster ...


    Cincinnati Bengals

    Peak recent playoff chances: Week 9 (5-3, 45.9 percent chance of making the postseason)
    Now: 5-7, 0.2 percent

    If you look further into the past, this is an even more calamitous drop by Marvin Lewis' team. The Bengals started the season 4-1 and held a 72.5 percent shot of making it into the postseason, only to blow a late lead against the Steelers in Week 6 and collapse. Their lone win over the ensuing seven weeks was a 37-34 victory over the Buccaneers in a game in which Jameis Winston threw four interceptions and the Cincinnati defense blew a 34-16 fourth-quarter lead, only for Andy Dalton to drive the Bengals downfield for a game-winning field goal.

    Dalton and seemingly most of his teammates aren't around anymore, with the Bengals obliterated by injuries after their hot start. Losing a returning A.J. Green on Sunday was the final blow. The Bengals have had just 17 of their players suit up in all 12 games this season, the eighth-lowest mark in the league. With Dalton and Green leading the way, 26.4 percent of Cincinnati's cap spending in 2018 has gone to players currently on injured reserve, the second-highest mark in football behind the 49ers.
    Andy Dalton is out for the season, and the Bengals are all but out of the playoff race. Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

    The concerning issue has to be the collapse of the defense, which has fallen from 17th in DVOA in both 2016 and 2017 to 28th this season. Since returning from their Week 9 bye, the Bengals have allowed opposing passers to complete a league-high 71.0 percent of their passes and post a passer rating of 122.3, ahead of only the Panthers and 49ers. It's one thing when it's against the Bucs and Chiefs, who Cincinnati played before its bye, but after playing the Saints in Week 10, they've allowed nearly 28 points per game to the Ravens, Browns and Broncos.

    Rarely conspicuous, the Bengals have little to play for over the remainder of 2018. Three of their four final games are on the road, and their home game against the Raiders in Week 15 is probably the most irrelevant game left on the NFL calendar, Joe Mixon fantasy owners aside. They have a chance to play spoiler against the Chargers in Week 14 and might end up with a road matchup against the Steelers' backups in Week 17.

    Their goals for 2018 are mostly left to figuring out who they want to keep around for 2019. Can the Bengals justify paying Dre Kirkpatrick a base salary of more than $9 million when he has been alternately injured and ineffective since signing his new deal? Does fellow former first-round pick Darqueze Dennard have any future with the team? Is C.J. Uzomah a viable No. 1 tight end?

    The follow-ups about the futures of Lewis and Hue Jackson might not lead to very satisfying answers for frustrating Bengals fans. If the Bengals thought Lewis was the right person to continue leading (or were too lazy to find a replacement) heading into 2018, it's difficult to make an argument that things have changed significantly this season. The Bengals got off to a hot start before dropping two straight against the Chiefs and Steelers. They still hit their bye at 5-3 before getting torn asunder by injuries. If anything, Lewis has a much better case for sticking around than he did a year ago. And if Lewis keeps power in Cincinnati, it's hard to believe Jackson will be going anywhere anytime soon.

    Lesson for 2019: Find a better backup quarterback. There's no way for the Bengals to make up for Green's absence when their star wide receiver isn't on the field, of course, but they can do a better job of approximating the middling Dalton than Jeff Driskel. Owner Mike Brown has shown virtually no propensity to get involved in unrestricted free agency, but a move for a free agent-to-be like Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh McCown might keep the Bengals afloat in 2019 if Dalton goes down.


    http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/page...g-lessons-2019

  2. #2
    If our big move is to keep Marvin and sign a backup we loke Fitzpatrick this city may riot.

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