Few people predicted the Bengals would be 4-2 at this point of the season. So, how many now believe Cincinnati will reach the playoffs?
Well, KC Joyner tackles this question over at ESPN Insider with some strong statistical analysis. Behind a very good defense and a pair of rookies that seem to be improving as the weeks go on, Joyner contends that the Bengals have a good shot at the playoffs if they can handle the more winnable games remaining.
Cincinnati's favorable second-half schedule includes games against Seattle, Tennessee, Cleveland, St. Louis and Arizona.
"If the Bengals can add three or four wins in those games along with one or two wins in their tougher matchups (Pittsburgh and Baltimore twice, Houston), it would equal nine wins for the season, which might be enough for the Bengals to make the postseason in the surprisingly weak AFC this year," Joyner wrote. "It would be an impressive feat for a team that was supposed to be in rebuilding mode this season."
Joyner was nice enough to pass along two other items that support the Bengals' surprising pursuit of a playoff spot:
Jerome Simpson has proved to be a very capable medium depth level threat (medium being defined as passes thrown 11-19 yards downfield). He has caught six of the nine medium passes directed to him this year and has gained 204 yards on those throws. Some of that is obviously skewed by the 84-yard gain against the Broncos in Week 2, but even if that play is taken out, he's still 5 for 8 for 120 yards, which equates to a very good 15.0 yards per attempt total.
Cedric Benson's numbers may not look that impressive but he has actually shown significant improvement in the good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) metric category. This measures how productive a running back is when he is given good blocking (which is loosely defined as when the blockers do not allow the defense to do anything to disrupt the rushing attempt). His 5.7 total in this metric in 2010 ranked tied for the ninth lowest in the league, but so far this year he is plugging along at a 6.5 pace.