For the second consecutive week, the Cincinnati Bengals have the No. 1 defense in the NFL, allowing just 279.6 yards per game. Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer has his squad playing a defense characterized by contradiction: they are young, yet disciplined, aggressive yet surgical.
The national media is beginning to take notice of the impressive Bengals D. Just Thursday on ESPN’s NFL Live, Damien Woody named Cincinnati the best defensive team in the NFL, and Damien Woddy knows defense like Cincinnatians knows chili. A former Pro Bowl offensive lineman and twice a Super Bowl winner with the Patriots, Woody played some superior defensive units in his 11-year NFL career.
Naturally, Bengals' fans are elated about the attention their defense is receiving from the media. Take a walk around the Queen City and you will see as many Rey Maualuga and Leon Hall jerseys as Andy Dalton and A.J. Green jerseys. When the defense takes the field, they bring a buzz and an energy to Paul Brown Stadium usually reserved to college football games or UFC fights.
For the first time in a long time, Bengals' fans feel confident that the defense will not lose the game, but perhaps Bengals fans should calm their optimism. For now, anyway.
Of the Bengals first five opponents, only one (Buffalo) ranks in the top half of the NFL in yards per game. In their remaining eleven games, the Bengals will face the Houston Texans, the NFL’s eighth best offense. The Bengals will line up against the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers twice each, both teams are ranked in the top fifteen in offense.
In defense of the defense, the Bengals have held high-scoring offensive units well under their season scoring averages. They held the Buffalo Bills, who score 32.8 points per game (third in the NFL), to just 20 points. They held the San Francisco 49ers, the League’s seventh best scoring team, to 13 points.
Where will the Bengals defense finish among all NFL defenses?
However, the Bengals' defense gave up 20 points to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that scores less than 12 points per game. Also, they let the Denver Broncos score 24 points against them, a full field goal higher than the Broncos’ 2011 scoring average. The defense is not yet consistent enough to stonewall teams like the Ravens, Steelers and Texans.
I am not suggesting that Bengals' fans should not be proud of what the defense has done through five games of the 2011 NFL Season. You should be excited about their play. Go to games, buy their jerseys and rub the Bengals’ number one defense in the face of Steelers fans you know. Go wild. After all, this is football, so have fun, just proceed with caution.
We will not be setting the playoff matchups five or crowning a Super Bowl champion five weeks in to the season, so it is a little early to call this Bengals defense the best one Cincinnati has ever seen or begin brainstorming Bengals-themed nicknames to rival the “Steel Curtain.”
Enjoy the Cincinnati defense as they take on the Indianapolis Colts today, Bengals' fans, but reserve final judgment for the end of the season.