“We can’t go down 0-3,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said of the team’s record.
Translation: Sunday’s game is a must-win for Cincinnati.
You can essentially write off the season if the Bengals lose. Only six teams have ever made the playoffs after starting the season 0-3. The 2018 Houston Texans are the only team to overcome such a deficit in the 21st century.
But no need for Bengals fans to worry about all that. Neither Burrow nor anyone else in the locker room is panicking, a result of the winning culture the Bengals have built. The team’s positive outlook shouldn’t be understated.
Cincinnati’s offensive problems are probably too aplenty to fix everything in one game, but things should start to move in the right direction. The Bengals just need something to help them build confidence and start to re-establish the offensive identity they had in 2021. This game couldn’t come at a better time.
New York’s defense is not good. The Jets have given up 54 points, third-most in the AFC. They only have two takeaways. The Jets have recorded just three sacks. That should be welcomed news for a Bengals offense that’s on pace to allow an eye-popping 110½ sacks this season.
Look for the Bengals to show the first signs of the explosiveness they had on offense last season. Expect a more balanced attack, with running back Joe Mixon having a big day.
Prediction: Bengals win, 28-14.
Last week’s prediction: Called the Bengals loss. I said Dallas Cowboys superstar pass rusher Micah Parsons would have his way, and the Bengals’ offense would continue to struggle.
Season record: 1-1
Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Indiana predictions
How much respect is Indiana getting nationally? None. Despite the 3-0 start, the Hoosiers did not receive any votes in this week’s AP Top 25 poll. Nor did they deserve any. Their wins have all been at home and against Illinois, Idaho and Western Kentucky. And Indiana struggled to win each game.
Regardless, a so-called Power Five team is coming to Nippert Stadium for the first time since 2019. This Bearcats team is looking to create its own identity. The Bearcats feel they missed an opportunity in the season-opening loss at Arkansas. Saturday is UC’s chance to show special season could be in the making.
The Bearcats must do a better job of holding onto the ball. UC has lost four fumbles this season. The Bearcats fumbled five times last week against Miami University, but were able to recover three of them. It’s uncharacteristic of Luke Fickell’s team after the Bearcats only lost 10 fumbles last season.
Fickell is a big-game coach. You know he hammered home the importance of holding onto the ball during practice all week.
Nippert is sold out. UC hasn’t lost at home since 2017, Fickell’s first season. No way the Bearcats are going to let Indiana break the streak.
Prediction: Bearcats win, 31-24.
Last week: I predicted a 21-point victory for the Bearcats against the RedHawks, and UC won by exactly that margin (38-17). I just missed correctly calling the final score (prediction: 35-14).
Season record: 2-0 (Predictions column didn’t start until after the Bearcats’ game at Arkansas.)
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Bengals vs Jets predictions and UC Bearcats football