The Cincinnati Bengals demonstrated their toughness today with a thorough thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, 36-21. The Andy Dalton-lead crew have rocketed to 4-0 which has led many to wonder whether they’re the real team to beat in the AFC, and not top ranked New England, who was off with a bye this week.
“In 2015, the biggest challengers to the Patriots’ reign were expected to come from Denver. Indianapolis. Maybe Pittsburgh,” Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report wrote following the Bengals victory. “But after dismantling the Kansas City Chiefs, 36-21, to improve to 4-0 on the season, the team with the best chance at unseating the Patriots in the AFC might just be from…Cincinnati, of all places.”
Cincinnati was led by running back Jeremy Hill, who silenced critics with his performance. According to ESPN, earlier in the week, Hill took to Twitter to complain about fantasy football and its impact on his season.
“At the end of the day, if my numbers aren’t great or if they’re not astonishing or if it’s not helping people’s fantasy teams, oh well,” he said. “We’re trying to win football games here. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.”
And win they did. The power rusher ran for three touchdowns helping his Bengals start the NFL season 4-0, a record that bodes well for his team reaching the playoffs.
“According to ESPN Stats & Information, in the three previous years the Bengals began 4-0, they finished with 11 or more wins. The last time that happened was 2005, the first year that head coach Marvin Lewis led the team to the playoffs.”
Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton meanwhile completed 17 of 24 passes for 321 yards and has haters around the league coming around on the ginger-haired QB.
Bengals continue to roll, dominate Chiefs at home behind confidant Andy Dalton http://t.co/bGEvc8oaaP
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) October 4, 2015
Andy Dalton playing at a level with Rodgers, Brady, Ryan…
— mark schlereth (@markschlereth) October 4, 2015
Sports Illustrated points to a new confidence in Dalton as the reason behind their success.
“The version of Dalton on display in the opening stages of this season, however, is a vast improvement on previous editions. The Tate touchdown was a perfect example of why—Dalton is playing with increased composure and confidence.”
The touchdown in question came with 8:54 left in the 3rd quarter. Up by only two points, Dalton, on the run, reared back and completed a 54-yard bomb to the Bengals Brandon Tate that effectively put the game out of reach.
— NFL (@NFL) October 4, 2015
But at the end of the day, does it mean they’re better than the New England Patriots, the perceived cream of the AFC crop? The defending Super Bowl champs dismantled the Jacksonville Jaguars last week and silenced Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills the week before. And Tom Brady is off to a historic start, having survived the most tumultuous off-season of his career when confronted by allegations of cheating during the whole “Deflategate” mess that permeated headlines this NFL offseason.
The only other preseason contender who could pose a challenge to New England, aside from the Cincinatti Bengals, might be the Denver Broncos who also seized a victory this afternoon over the Minnesota Vikings at Mile High Stadium.
Either way, it looks like we won’t know the answer to that question until the playoffs, if all three teams make it there. Looking at the remaining schedule for all three teams only the Broncos and Bengals square off this season on a Sunday night in December. So any talk of the Cincinnati Bengals being the team to beat in the AFC will have to wait at least until then.
[Photo credit: John Grieshop / Getty Images]