Apparently there are more Bengals fans out there than we give credit for, because someone is apparently wagering a sizable amount of money that Andy Dalton and co. are making the playoffs.
When 2019 playoff odds were initially released, the Bengals were one of the longer shots on the board, with +650 odds from the likes of Bovada and other online books. That's still where they sat as recently as May. Since then they've dropped to +500, with one sportsbook — BetOnline — taking them off the board altogether.
It's hard to ascertain what BetOnline saw that inspired them to pull the Bengals' odds, but the fact that Bovada and others dropped their odds by more than +100 is a telling indicator that some group of fans are betting a pretty sizable amount on the tiger helmets making a return to the postseason under first year coach Zac Taylor.
The franchise's Quality Stats Power Ranking from 2018 doesn't bode particularly well for its playoff future, either.
The Bengals finished the 2018 season ranked 23rd in the Quality Stats Power Ranking. That was down from 17th in 2017 and 13th in 2016. However, there could be a sliver of hope for the 2019 season when reviewing the fortunes of teams a year removed from a bottom-eight power ranking finish:
— In 2018, two teams that finished in 2017's bottom eight — the Texans and Colts — rebounded to make the playoffs (and, uniquely, face off against each other). Their common bond? Each was returning their franchise starting quarterback after they missed most or all of the previous season.
— In 2017, the Rams (new coach), Jaguars (new coach, at least officially), and Panthers rebounded into the playoffs after missing out in 2016.
— 2016 saw only the Cowboys, who added new quarterback Dak Prescott and star running back Ezekiel Elliott, make the jump from bottom eight to the playoffs.
Clearly, the Bengals are hoping for a repeat of the 2017 season, with Taylor serving as their Sean McVay or Doug Marrone.
Beyond the Quality Stats, as SportsBettingDime.com noted, there's really only one other thing that should inspire confidence in the Bengals' chances: their schedule is about as easy as it gets.
Sure, there are other reasons for optimism, too. Taylor looks poised to free A.J. Green from the creative prison he inhabited while Marvin Lewis was coach. There's legitimate excitement about Tyler Boyd, tight end Tyler Eifert is back with a passion to prove he isn't "injury prone," and the defense added young cornerback B.J. Webb while finally jettisoning Vontaze Burfict in a move that could prove to be addition by subtraction.
Do those moves and Taylor's training wheels equal a playoff berth? That's a hard call. Making the playoffs from the AFC North ahead of at least two of the defending division champion Ravens, perennial contending Steelers and surging Browns. The AFC West would seem to have an inside track on two playoff spots in the form of the Chiefs and Chargers, barring significant slippage from one of those teams. And even if the AFC East should be a Patriots only show, the AFC South will turn out the Colts, Texans, Jaguars (who could look more like the 2017 edition than the 2018 form) and even Titans fighting for a division crown and additional wild card spot.
All of which is to say that the Bengals could be much better than they have been, and even better than expected, but that doesn't mean they're bona fide playoff material.
Which in turn means that if you were one of the people placing a bet on Cincinnati in the early going, you're probably a fan.