Another year is almost over and the NFL Playoffs are about to invade the sanctuary of many quiet households. Normally unspoken people will become raving maniacs for their favorite team. There’s always a good argument to be had when it comes to a favorite or best team. The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers renew their rivalry this Sunday. Which team is better? The history of the league says the Steelers. But recent history gives the nod to the Bengals.
At the risk of being sent to the eighth floor of some mental institution or X-Files home for the mentally unstable, I have to go with the Bengals as the better team. This is not some knee-jerk reaction to the attitudes and fickle swaying of analysts. All one has to do is put in a little research work. The numbers and facts are there for any unbeliever to inspect.
The powers that be at ESPN have the Bengals locked in at No.4 on their Football Power Index. There are no “style points” or favoritism votes going on with the rankings. It’s purely about head-to-head football and the strength of a team. While the Bengals have a 7.1 power ranking, the Steelers are lagging behind with a 5.9 ranking.
The FPI has no favorites. While the Carolina Panthers are cruising along at 11-0, they fall into the No.5 spot behind the Bengals with a 6.0 rank. It would be easy to say that there must be some idiots working the numbers that give the results. But when everything is crunched according to pure football data, the facts are the facts. From the FPI aspect of things, the Bengals win.
That’s not to say that pure emotion doesn’t come into play. That’s a given on any Sunday in the NFL. Upsets can happen in the blink of an eye. But barring a breakdown of monumental proportions, they’re very rare.
As stated before, another reason the Bengals are better than the Steelers is recent history. The AFC North was founded in 2002. In that time, the Steelers have won six division titles. The Bengals have won three times. That only shows the Pittsburgh dominance in the rivalry. But until 2005 – two years into the Marvin Lewis era – the Bengals hadn’t qualified for the playoffs since 1990. That will serve as the starting point for further comparisons.
The Bengals were struggling with Carson Palmer as quarterback and he wanted out. In that time, the Steelers were rolling along with Big Ben and had no worries. But a funny thing happened in 2011. The Bengals released Palmer and picked up a kid named Andrew Dalton. Since then, things have been dramatically different in the AFC North.
That Pittsburgh Steelers dominance took a backseat. Since the Bengals have had Dalton at the helm, they have gone 50-25-1 with a .664 winning percentage. The Bengals have also won the AFC North as many times as the Steelers. They each have won just once. The Ravens took the division in 2011 and the following year. Pittsburgh’s record in the past four years is 46-30 with a .605 winning percentage. Looks like the Bengals are the better team.
What about the playoffs? Surely the men from the Steel City are better in the playoffs. Actually, the Steelers are just as bad as the Bengals in that area. But a slight edge should be given to the Bengals because they’ve qualified each year. The Steelers made it twice but lost as well.
There’s bad blood between the Bengals and the guys in Black and Gold. But that’s because the Bengals are putting a better product on the field. Linebacker Arthur Moats has confirmed it. It’s all about the bully not being intimidating anymore.
“They’re putting a good product out there every year and the division has been back and forth between us and them, these last couple years.”
“I feel there’s definitely that bad blood,” Moats explained. ” I feel that it’s going to make it that much better, going forward.”
The Bengals are better and getting respect from the Steelers. Now the rest of the league and fans have to realize it.
[Feature Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images]