COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Bengals have a two-game lead in the AFC North and are tied for the third-best record in the NFC, but the early success of a 5-2 record hasn't quite warranted a league ranking that puts the Bengals among the most likely to vie for a conference title just yet.
Sagarin Ratings -- The Bengals crack the top 10 in the Jeff Sagarin Ratings only to still lag behind all other of the four AFC teams with equal or better record. The Bengals are rated behind two NFC teams with lesser records, including the Green Bay Packers, who the Bengals beat.
The Bengals' Week 8 opponent -- the New York Jets -- factor even less favorably into the strength of win basis of the Sagarin Ratings, trailing 13 teams with lesser records to rank 27th despite a 4-3 record and a win over the New England Patriots. The home field advantage for the Bengals in Week 8 makes them nearly a 10-point Sagarin favorite over the Jets.
Yahoo -- Frank Schwab warns that the Bengals could move up the power rankings list fast, but losing to the Jets in Week 8 would pop that balloon quick. Still, the Bengals might stand a chance to move past the sixth-place Chiefs in Schwab's rankings next week with a convincing win against the Jets.
CBS -- The Pete Prisco power rankings position the Bengals sixth -- ahead of the Indianapolis Colts and two teams the Bengals have beaten at home in the Patriots and the Packers. The Bengals rank third in the AFC in the Prisco rankings. The back-to-back weeks of success for Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton are making a believer out of Prisco and others.
ProFootballTalk -- The NFL power rankings according to Mike Florio have the Bengals eighth, trailing the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos and the Colts in the AFC. Florio suggests that perhaps Bengals' cornerback Adam Jones is now 100 percent convinced that quarterback Dalton can lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl.
ESPN -- The ESPN rankings also note the recent excellence of Dalton but note that the Jets haven't allowed a 300-yard passer this season. ESPN ranks the Jets 15th, which is the lowest among teams with a winning record.
Overall, the Bengals are more in favor among the rankings because Dalton is performing up to expectations with much improved results over the past two road wins, but the Bengals' defense remains the true force of this team for now.
The defense is tied for seventh in the NFL for fewest points allowed per game (19.7) and eighth against the run at 97.9 yards per game. Their Week 7 win on the road against the Detroit Lions marked the first time in 21 games that a passer has thrown for more than 300 yards against the Bengals defense, but the loss of top CB Leon Hall to an Achilles injury will eventually expose some weakness and inexperience in the secondary.
The Bengals are on their way to contend for the AFC North once again and the rankings across the board are showing that the team is one on the rise, perhaps on the verge of realizing higher expectations than just a one-and-done in the postseason.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for more than five years. He posts his NFL draft predictions each year at footballnostradamus.com.
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