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Don't Let Injuries Take Away From the Bengals' Biggest Issue

Injuries are an issue, but they can't be the issue

Turnover differential is a key indicator that determines an NFL team’s success. 

Turnovers allow us to predict future success; a team that wins the turnover battle wins 69.6% of the time according to a study done by the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective.

The five teams with the NFL's best turnover margin are all above .500 and firmly in the playoff picture. The Indianapolis Colts (+13), Arizona Cardinals (+12), New England Patriots (+10), Buffalo Bills (+9), and Green Bay Packers (+9) are at the top and there’s a strong correlation between their turnover margin and their record. 

The Bengals enter Week 14 with a -2 turnover differential. It’s difficult for a team to win and continue their push for the playoffs when they can't take care of the football.

There’s a lot of news and concern surrounding Cincinnati’s injuries, and while I’m a big believer in the health is wealth mentality, I’m more concerned with how turnover prone the Bengals have been so far this season.

Cincinnati committed 14 turnovers combined in their losses to the Bears, Packers, Jets, Browns, and the Chargers.

The Bengals had many opportunities to win all five of those games and shot themselves in the foot in each one.

They will not go very far in the playoffs without being able to take care of the football. They had a golden opportunity to get their 8th win of the season on Sunday and instead fumbled it away in the fourth quarter.

The talent is there for Cincinnati to be a playoff caliber team, but I don’t believe this squad will win in the postseason or even make the playoffs if they continue turning the ball over. 

Joe Burrow is the biggest offender on the team. He leads the NFL with 14 interceptions. He doesn't shoulder the blame for every interception. The problem runs much deeper than Burrow. The entire offensive unit shares blame.

“Not every interception is on the quarterback,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said on Monday. “Sometimes, a turnover’s because a guy gives up pressure. Sometimes a turnover’s because we’re not sound enough in protection or we miss a protection pick-up and the quarterback gets hit because his guy is free. Sometimes we don’t run the right route. And not that all those things happened in this game in particular, but at the end of the day, turnovers are a collective effort.”

We know Burrow is aggressive, we know he likes to extend plays and try to create something explosive when he’s got limited options, but he must elevate and become even better if this team is going to move forward and make a postseason run.

“The turnovers, they’re too many. It’s too many all the way around,” Callahan said. “Our defense has done a decent job of getting the ball back. We’re really neutralizing that advantage when we keep giving the ball away at the rate we are, whether it’s fumbles or interceptions or however they come.”

Cincinnati still has Kansas City and Baltimore on the schedule; both teams are 8-4 and ahead of the Bengals in the AFC playoff standings. It will be hard for the Bengals to make the postseason for the first time in six years if they continue to give the ball away.

This issue must be fixed immediately, and the Bengals know that.

There is too much at stake for this team to continue down this path. They need to get better in one of the most important areas of the game. There are just five opportunities left, and it starts with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. 

Don’t let the injuries distract you from the real problem this team is facing in 2021. The Bengals have to rid themselves of the turnover bug that has plagued them all season. 

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