The Cincinnati Bengals‘ season has been up-and-down so far, but despite a couple of tough losses, Cincy is right in the same position at the bye week they were last season (5-4 through nine games).

Cincinnati’s hope this season is the same as it was a year ago — get hot at the right time in the playoffs and make a run at the Lombardi Trophy.

There have been times this season when the Bengals have looked dominant (their wins over the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, and Carolina Panthers).

And there have been times when Cincy looked like they were destined to miss the playoffs (their losses against the Pittsburgh Steelers — even though it went to OT — and the loss to the Cleveland Browns).

Oct 23, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) carries the ball in the fourth quarter during a Week 7 NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

Based on last season, the Bengals appear to be in pretty good shape for a playoff run.

There’s one thing, however, that an anonymous AFC executive thinks could hold Cincinnati back come playoff time — going up against elite pass rushers.

From ESPN:

The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the AFC’s biggest wild cards because of their ability to “catch fire at any time,” said a separate AFC exec, who added “their struggles against elite pass-rushers is going to hurt them in the end.”

The Bengals are currently No. 30 in the NFL in sacks allowed per game (3.6 sacks given up per game…the only teams worse have been the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears).

That’s certainly not ideal — especially since that was one of the biggest reasons the Bengals didn’t win the Super Bowl last season.

In Cincinnati’s blowout loss to the Browns last month, the Bengals gave up five sacks. That’s the blueprint for beating the Bengals. If teams can get pressure on quarterback Joe Burrow without having to blitz (which allows teams to bracket Cincy’s wide receivers), then the Bengals are probably losing.

The hope for Cincinnati is that the offensive line will continue to improve as the season progresses. If that improvement happens, then this team can win a Super Bowl. If it doesn’t happen, the Bengals won’t be planning a parade in February.

Joe Mixon is a top ___ RB in the NFL

Featured image via David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports