Monday, October 17, 2005

Avenging David Klingler

Though apparently logy from the pregame taco bar, Cincinnati eventually got it together and beat Tennessee 31-23 on Sunday. The win ran the Bengals' record to 5-1. Purely on wins and losses, it's their best start since the 1988 Super Bowl season and the third-best in the franchise's 38-year history. By a different measure, however, 2005 has seen the Bengals' best start ever. That measure: point differential, one of Down and Distance's favorite indicators.

Cincinnati has outscored its opponents 155-84, a difference of 71 points, or almost 12 per game. The franchise's previous best after six games: 64 in 1988. Further, this is the first time in 15 years that the team has had a positive differential after six games, and only the 11th time in 38 years. A look at where the Bengals have stood after six games since the franchise began playing in 1968:

Blue is good; red is bad
1988+646-0 2000-1060-6
1974+594-2 1999-93 1-5
1975+586-0 1997-86 1-5
1976+554-2 1991-80 0-6

As you can see, the Bengals' best years before 2005 were so far in the past that your gramps is liable to spin yarns about them. Their worst years, meanwhile, ran until about six weeks ago. Are those dark times truly over? It's tempting to think so. When I think about how long Marvin Lewis had to wait for a head coaching job while someone like Wade Phillips is perennially on the NFL's short list, I can't help but root for the Bengals. Next week's game against Pittsburgh is the single most important of Lewis' three seasons in Cincinnati.

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