Well, the season is over. The Cincinnati Bengals improved to a disappointing 6-9-1 after a 27-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The extremely battered Bengals escaped with a win over their division rivals while also securing the 9th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. However; the team that won their season finale Sunday was not the same team that played during the rest of the season. Here are the main difference makers:
The player of the game was without a doubt Rex Burkhead, who replaced Jeremy Hill as the starter. Burkhead finished the game with 119 yards and 2 TDs, alongside 25 receiving yards. This may be an unpopular opinion, but based on his performance this season, I believe that Rex Burkhead should have a larger role than Jeremy Hill next season. Burkhead has racked up 344 yards, nearly half of Hill’s total yardage, in just 74 attempts, almost a fourth of Hill’s carries. Burkhead will surely receive a new contract over the offseason.
One of the better aspects of this terrible season has been the solid play on defense. In fact, the Bengals defense hasn’t allowed a first-half touchdown since their Week 12 matchup against the Ravens and has only allowed four touchdowns in as many games. That impressive play continued into the season finale, as they held the Ravens to one TD and caused many problems for Joe Flacco (one interception and three sacks).
Rookies Stepped Up
With A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Vontaze Burfict injured, rookies Tyler Boyd, Cody Core, C.J. Uzomah and Nick Vigil stepped up. Boyd and Core combined for six catches and 121 yards. Uzomah racked in three catches for 13 yards and a TD. Vigil had six total tackles and one pass deflection. Even KeiVarae Russell got an interception on his first snap of the season.
The Bengals season is over at 6-9-1, their worst record during the Andy Dalton era. However, the future does look bright due to the impressive play of rookies and the number of draft picks that the team has. We’ll have to wait until September to find out whether this team will turn it around.