You can break down the “Marvin Lewis era” into two distinct segments: The Carson Palmer era, the Andy Dalton era. Keep in mind that this distinction isn’t a mutual narrative regarding these quarterbacks; it’s a universally accepted breakdown that compartmentalizes two enunciated eras within an era. Got it? Good.
The Carson Palmer era featured a high-octane offense with a powerful running game and an opportunistic defense that, despite the yardage allowed, generated turnovers. This was also the era that, unfortunately, established the Bengals as caricatures being viewed as criminals (which developed over the course of a single offseason). The Carson Palmer era was arguably the most exciting during the Marvin Lewis administration, especially the 2005 squad, who should have won the Super Bowl.
The Andy Dalton era scaled down the excitement factor, but introduced several elements that exist today; Cincinnati’s most talented wide receiver in franchise history, a rushing offense that’s starving for an identity, but a defense that’s arguably historical, led by a defensive coordinator that’s still universally loved in this city despite leaving for Minnesota. While the Carson Palmer era often required a ridiculous amount of points to win, the Andy Dalton era offered more diversity; they’ve won shootouts, defensive contests, and have even enjoyed their fair-share of lopsided wins.
Cincinnati lost that stability and toughness last season and, aside from the defense re-establishing their themselves as champions in Cincinnati, this year’s offensive squad appears to be a continuation of the downward spiral set-forth last year.
For the first time during the Andy Dalton era, the Bengals are 0-2 and are heading to Green Bay this Sunday. You might be surprised to know that Cincinnati has enjoyed relative success against these cheeseheads, riding a three-game winning streak against the Packers, including a 31-24 win over Aaron Rodgers’ squad at Lambeau in 2009; Carson Palmer threw three touchdowns and Cedric Benson rushed for 141 yards that afternoon.
If Cincinnati loses this Sunday, the Bengals will open the season 0-3; the worst start since 2008 when they opened the season with an eight-game losing streak (they went 4-11-1 that year with Ryan Fitzpatrick). Cincinnati has started their season 0-3 twice during the Lewis era (2003, 2008), and on four occasions, they’ve sported a 1-2 record after three games (2016, 2011, 2007, 2004).
There’s no insight to be gained here, other than historical comparison. If you believe Cincinnati will mount a competitive challenge for a postseason berth, Sunday’s game is a “must-win”. Maybe you’re a dreamer. Maybe you’re a person of faith. Either way, the demons facing them is significant. However, the schedule is favorable: After an away game this Sunday in Green Bay, and then games in Cleveland, at home against Buffalo, and the bye week, Cincinnati will play the Colts, Jaguars, Titans, Browns (again), Bears, Lions, sandwiched against more difficult opponents in Denver and Pittsburgh.
It’s possible. Right?