Last week, people tried talking themselves into the Cincinnati Bengals becoming one of the NFL's contenders. Never mind that it was an overreaction to a win over the Atlanta Falcons. People are starving for there to be more than just a few good teams this season.
The Bengals aren't any better than the rest of the mediocre teams chasing the Bills, Eagles, Chiefs and maybe the Cowboys. They looked miserable on Monday night in a 32-13 loss to a Cleveland Browns team that was 2-5 coming in without any decent wins.
The Bengals were shut down by a Browns defense that was one of the worst in the NFL coming into Monday night's game. The Bengals didn't score for the first three quarters in one of the worst performances from any team this season. The Bengals are just another team, like most others this season, that can have some good days but isn't good enough to avoid getting absolutely blown out by a bad opponent.
The Bengals are 4-4 after a horrible loss. They're not terrible but not very good either. There are a lot of NFL teams in that bin.
Bengals got off to a horrible start
The Bengals got off to a bad start and it never got better. Joe Burrow threw an interception in Browns territory on Cincinnati's first possession of the game.
The Bengals stayed in the game for a while, but that was because the Browns' offense wasn't very good. Cleveland was stuck on zero points until about five minutes remained in the second quarter. Nick Chubb scored a touchdown and then, after a penalty, he scored a two-point conversion too.
The Browns' lead was just 8-0 at that point. The game shouldn't have been practically over, given how well Burrow had played the past two weeks and the deficiencies on the Browns' defense. But the game was never competitive after that. The Bengals never showed any signs of life before or after that Chubb touchdown to start the scoring.
It was shocking to see a team that looked like it was starting to get hot look incompetent against a Browns team that had been among the worst in the NFL. The Bengals were without top receiver Ja'Marr Chase on Monday night. Chase is out for a few weeks with a hip injury. Chase is a great player, but he shouldn't be the difference between the Bengals being a playoff team and whatever we were subjected to watching on Monday night.
Browns dominate the game
Monday night was the Browns' best game of the season by far. They had a last-minute win over the Carolina Panthers and a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a couple of 2-6 teams. They weren't good on offense or defense and their 2-5 record coming into Monday night's game reflected that.
Cleveland hadn't been that good at any point through seven weeks and the Bengals hadn't been that bad either. Monday night probably doesn't mean the Browns are roaring back, but we'll see. It probably said more about the flaws of the Bengals. Cincinnati did nothing well.
Cincinnati was pushed around by the Browns' line. They didn't cover that well in the secondary. The Bengals offensive line, which had been playing better, didn't protect Burrow at all. There was no running game and nobody in the passing game stepped up with Chase out. When the Bengals finally did score early in the fourth quarter, kicker Evan McPherson missed the extra point. It was an A-to-Z debacle for a team that won an AFC championship last season and was starting to make some progress the past couple weeks.
The Bengals are like most teams in the NFL. There aren't many teams you'd trust as a Super Bowl contender. Aside from the top few, everyone is either bad or entirely unpredictable. The Bengals are fine but Monday was a sign they're not a contender either. But it's the 2022 NFL: Wait a week and it can all change.