State of despair: Bengals

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
12:43
PM ET
A quick look at a team that has not met expectations and is struggling:

What's gone wrong: The Cincinnati Bengals, coming off a division title, had high expectations but are already on their last legs heading into a must-win game at home against the Miami Dolphins. Sloppiness, lack of attention to detail and inconsistent play at quarterback and on defense have led to Cincinnati's 2-4 start. A loss Sunday will drop the Bengals out of the AFC North division race, as the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1) and Baltimore Ravens (5-2) are off to fast starts. With chances of repeating as division champs just about over, the best chance the Bengals have is to get hot in the second half and earn a wild card. Cincinnati must go 8-2 the rest of the way just to match last year's 10-6 record and have a legitimate shot at the playoffs in a deep and competitive AFC.

How to fix them: It starts with the details. The Bengals have a history of inconsistency and not being able to handle success. Through the first six games, it's clear they entered the season overconfident. Last year's team was tough and blue-collar. Cincinnati outworked and beat up opponents, but that hasn't been the case this season. The Bengals' coaching staff must hold players more accountable for knowing their assignments. The Bengals have playoff talent but are one of the worst executing teams in the league. With the bye already behind them, it makes you wonder if the Bengals are capable of being a more efficient team.

Panic rating: High. The Bengals have strong personalities in the locker room. More losing could increase the possibility of an implosion.

Coach on the hot seat: Technically, there isn't a hot seat in Cincinnati as head coach Marvin Lewis is in the final year of his contract. Lewis will get an extension or both sides will go their separate ways. There were some negotiations during the offseason, but things have been quiet since. Although things can always change, both sides appear comfortable for now going into the offseason without a new deal.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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