May the Fourth be with you, because it really hasn’t been with the Cincinnati Bengals—yes, our current NFL Thursday miniseries takes on sad-sack Cincy today, a three-time Super Bowl loser (1981, 1988, 2021) which has never won an NFL title in its 56-season existence. The .454 overall winning percentage is pretty mediocre, too, although things are on the rise in the current day, thanks to unique forces. Strangely, none of those three SB-losing teams are on this list.

Editor’s Note: The most-recent Bengals team to lose a Super Bowl was actually just the 13th-best team in organization history. That shows you what the real agenda is, doesn’t it? Regardless, the other two SB-losing teams from Cincinnati just missed this list, and there is a very unique entry below, too, which is a new first for this miniseries. See if you can spot it!

No. 5: 1975 Cincinnati Bengals

With an 11-5 record, this team finished second in the AFC Central Division to the defending and eventual repeat champions from Pittsburgh. No shame in that! Ranked No. 9 in offense and No. 6 on defense, the Bengals were the No.7-rated team in the SRS overall. Cincinnati did snag the lone wild-card playoff spot at the time, and the reward was a trip to Oakland to face the Raiders: the Bengals played decently enough, but they came up short in a 31-28 loss.

The roster was both top heavy and deep: quarterback Ken Anderson (16 AV), cornerback Ken Riley (15), and wide receiver Isaac Curtis (11) were the only players in double-digit value. However, 15 other guys finished with 7-9 AV, demonstrating just how good the team really was. Against the Silver & Black, however, the young Bengals got off to a slow start—and it cost them. Down 24-7 in the third quarter, Anderson’s two touchdown passes late were not enough.

No. 4: 1989 Cincinnati Bengals

One year after reaching the Super Bowl, Cincinnati fielded an even better team—sabermetrically speaking. This squad posted just an 8-8 record to finish in last place while obviously missing the postseason, too. The Bengals were No. 4 on offense and No. 7 on defense, combining for a No. 3 ranking in the SRS overall. But the team lost four 1-score games, losing two others by 19 points total. Meanwhile, they won six times by multiple-score margins. What a crazy season.

There was a lot of elite talent on this team: strong safety David Fulcher (16 AV), offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz (16), and QB Boomer Esiason (15) were the top players. Three other guys posted at least 13 AV, while 10 more players registered at least 8 AV. But again, how does a team with a plus-119 scoring differential finish in last place? Cincy went 5-1 in its division and posted the second-best scoring margin in the AFC. But losing close games always kills a team … ouch.

No. 3: 2022 Cincinnati Bengals

The most-current team in franchise history was a good one: a 12-4 record secured the AFC North Division title, on the basis on the No. 7 offense, the No. 6 defense, and the No. 3 SRS overall ranking. After beating the Baltimore Ravens in the first round (thanks to suspect officiating), the Bengals went to Buffalo and beat the Bills easily (thanks again to suspect officiating). However, the team’s luck ran out due to stupid play in the final seconds on the road in Kansas City.

QB Joe Burrow (17 AV) was the team’s best player, by far, as no one else came within 5 AV of him: defensive end Trey Hendrickson (12) was the next-best Bengal. Against Baltimore, Burrow managed to lead his offense to just 234 yards, but Cincy was rescued by special teams and the zebras. Against Buffalo, the refs were strangely again helping the Bengals against the top-ranked defense. Against the Chiefs, though, Burrow threw two interceptions, and … yeah, dumb play.

No. 2: 1976 Cincinnati Bengals

Despite a 10-4 record and the No. 3 finish in the SRS rankings overall, these Bengals missed the postseason. They were second in the AFC Central, sixth on offense, and seventh in defense. A plus-125 scoring differential was undermined by two losses to division-winning Pittsburgh, as well as a one-point road loss to the Baltimore Colts, who won the AFC East Division with an 11-3 record. Scoring a combined 9 points in the two defeats against the Steelers was the real death knell.

Riley (15 AV) and Anderson (13) were joined by SS Tommy Casanova (13) at the top of the value charts for this roster. Ironically, the Bengals finished with a better scoring margin than the 13-1 Oakland Raiders, who won the AFC West and eventually the Super Bowl. Yet the Silver & Black also defeated the Orange & Black by a 35-20 score in Week 13 on Monday Night Football to all but end Cincinnati’s playoff hopes. Sometimes, those are the breaks, sabermetrically speaking.

No. 1: 2015 Cincinnati Bengals

We’re guessing no one had this team in the best-ever pool for the Bengals. With the No. 7 offense and the No. 2 defense, though, Cincinnati went 12-4 to win the AFC North and finished No. 3 in the overall SRS rankings. Unfortunately, they drew division-rival Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs, and the Steelers eked out an 18-16 victory to end the Bengals season quite early. Familiarity is bad for the postseason, as the Cincy offense coughed up the ball four times.

Defensive tackle Geno Atkins (18 AV) and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (16) were the best players on this team, strong in the trenches. A foursome of other players came in at 13 AV to spread the value around evenly. But the playoff game was a mess as starting QB Andy Dalton was out injured. The Bengals fell behind 15-0 and then took the lead late, 16-15, before really screwing up in multiple ways: a stupid fumble, some stupid penalties, and … the Steelers won. Doh!