Your Panic over the Vikings Week 1 Loss to the Bengals Was All for Nil

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal as time runs out in overtime of the NFL Week One game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. The Bengals won 27-24 on a last minute field goal in overtime. Minnesota Vikings At Cincinnati Bengals

Remember those terrible Cincinnati Bengals that beat the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1? The squad from 2020 that was 4-11-1 behind a Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen, and Ryan Finley sandwich at quarterback?

Vikings fans convinced themselves losing to such a tragic team was indicative of a poor Vikings team on the menu for 2021.

What really happened? The Vikings didn’t choke away an overtime victory to a bad team – they actually fumbled away (literally) a win to one of the NFL’s best.

That’s right, through seven weeks of the regular season, the Bengals are the AFC’s top organization. After a thorough shellacking of the Baltimore Ravens in Maryland on Sunday, the Bengals announced loud and clear that their brand of football is for real. Hell, they thrashed Lamar Jackson’s team 41-17 on the road – what more does one need to take them seriously?

Nothing.

Somewhat quietly, the Burrow Bengals rank seventh in points scored and fifth in points allowed, a hallmark of balance nobody foresaw when the 2021 season began.  Oddly, Cincinnati’s only two losses this season occurred against the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Another loss should’ve happened against the Vikings way back in early September, but the referees ensured Dalvin Cook’s loss of the football was ruled a fumble.

After Minnesota bungled that game in Cincinnati, the general sentiment was one of disdain and embarrassment. How could the Vikings lose to the trashy Bengals?

Well, they’re not trashy. They weren’t in Week 1, and they sure as hell are not in Week 7. Bengals skipper Zac Taylor is the leading candidate for Coach of the Year. Ja’Marr Chase is positioning a stranglehold on the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. And Burrow is only the NFL’s eighth-best passer per Pro Football Focus.

Vikings fans fell into a trap of cynicism based on the Bengals splotchy history. The 2021 Bengals are not the disgusting Bengals of decades past. Taylor and Burrow have concocted a winning formula in Cincinnati, and the wins in recent weeks are validation.

So, for some perspective, as of October 25, the Vikings played the AFC’s best team in Week 1 and the NFC’s best team in Week 2. How’s that for scheduling luck?

Indeed, the Vikings struggled to beat bad teams like the Detroit Lions and [apparently] Carolina Panthers. In the end, though, Minnesota did win those contests. Just as they barely toppled the Lions and Panthers, they narrowly lost to the Bengals and Cardinals. Truth be told, if the Vikings were a meh team genuinely deserving of a 3-3 record, they probably should’ve had their pants beaten off by Cincinnati and Arizona – knowing what we know now.

Minnesota was two plays away from beating two of the top teams in the business. Losing to the Bengals was never slimy. That was merely the theory because the Bengals franchise history is suspect.

With Joe Burrow in charge, that is not true anymore.

When 2021 schedules hit the wire last spring, the Bengals game was theorized as an easy one. In retrospect, the reality is the opposite. At Cincinnati Week 1 was one of the toughest games of the year, evidenced by the Bengals current top-seed standing in the AFC.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).