Are the Cincinnati Bengals a flash in the pan?

The reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals are … not off to a promising start. 

Sitting at 0-2, each of Cincy’s two losses are on last-second field goals to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, meaning victory was not too far out of reach. 

Still, there appear to be bigger issues at hand. 

So far, star quarterback Joe Burrow has been off the mark. In the Bengals’ first two games, Burrow has totaled 537 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, four interceptions and a 73.1 quarterback rating, completing 64% of his throws. All four interceptions came in the team’s Week 1 overtime loss to Pittsburgh.

After two weeks, the Bengals are tied for 21st in the NFL in scoring offense (18.5 PPG), 30th in yards per play (4.3) and tied for 32nd in turnover differential (-4). They’re the first team to start a season 0-2 after reaching the Super Bowl the previous year since the 2015 Seattle Seahawks.

Cincy has also been outscored 34-9 in the first half of games this season. Their -25 scoring margin in the first half is 31st in the NFL. Meanwhile, their +22 scoring margin in the second half is first.

And even though Cincinnati mounted a 14-point comeback on Sunday in Dallas to tie the game at 17, the Bengals still felt short to a Dallas team led by backup quarterback Cooper Rush, who’s starting in place of the injured Dak Prescott.

Are the 2021 Bengals, who missed the playoffs and failed to post a winning record from 2016-20, a flash in the pan?

Colin Cowherd, host of “The Herd,” said Monday the Bengals aren’t a fluke, though they have their hands full in the AFC.

“Is Cincinnati just a one-year phenomenon? I do not believe so,” Cowherd said. “I think it’s all tied to Burrow not playing in the preseason. All new offensive line, he hasn’t practiced with them. I thought the second half [Sunday], you saw glimpses of what I think they are. 

“But it’s very hard in this league to win consistently if you’re in a good division in a better conference, the AFC, with a bad O-Line, and you’re playing from behind all the time. That is hard.”

Burrow didn’t appear in the preseason for the Bengals because he had his appendix removed. Cincinnati has some new faces on its offense, as they signed offensive linemen Alex Cappa and La’el Collins, and tight end Hayden Hurst in the offseason.

A sign of hope for Bengals is the fact that every team in their division lost in Week 2 (Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns), which puts Cincinnati just a game out of first place in the AFC North early in the season.

Cincinnati hits the road to take on the New York Jets, 1-1, on Sunday.

“I think they [Bengals] figure it out, but this league is unforgiving, man,” Cowherd said.

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