The Cincinnati Bengals had a tremendous opportunity to make up some ground in the AFC North division on Monday night if they were just able to hold out to reach a win over the Giants. But instead, they were unable to hold on to a fourth-quarter lead against a team that routinely blew them last year, and New York is now 6-3, while the Bengals are 3-5-1.
A win in that game would have actually moved Cincinnati ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and just a half of a game behind the Baltimore Ravens within the AFC North. The Steelers are 4-5 with a winning percentage of .444, while the Ravens hold a winning percentage of .556.
Had the Bengals won, they would have been able to sandwich themselves in between both division rivals with a .500 record, with four wins, four losses, and a tie, which functions as half of a loss and half of a win. Instead, they dropped to five losses on the season, and now have a winning percentage of .389.
Understand how much of a stark contrast this is for the Bengals compared to last season, who won the AFC North in commanding fashion with a 12-4 record that could have been even better had they not lost quarterback Andy Dalton for the last several games of the season with a thumb injury—one that he suffered against the Steelers.
Cincinnati has already assured that the best they can possibly finish this season is 10-5-1, which translates to a winning percentage of .65625, which is a difference of .09375 from where they finished a year ago. And in order to do that, they would be required to win their final seven games.
Monday’s loss was the third game this season in which the Bengals held a lead in the fourth quarter and failed to win, including the game that they tied. The difference between being unable to hold on to a fourth-quarter lead, currently, his two and a half wins and control of the division.
While veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby said that the Bengals would have won the game if they were able to stop the Giants when they went for the touchdown in the fourth quarter on fourth down that gave them the 21-20 lead, the reality is that Cincinnati got the ball three more times after that score, and only needed a field goal to regain the lead.
Monday was the seventh time in nine games in which the Bengals failed to score even 24 points on the season. The offense simply has not been the same since Dalton injured his finger, though there was also a lot of turnover in the offseason.
And yet, in spite of all that—really, in spite of themselves—the Bengals are still in the hunt for the division. They are just half a game behind the Steelers in the loss column, and a game and a half behind the Ravens, with two games against them and one against the Steelers remaining.