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10 Greatest Cincinnati Bengals Teams of All Time

Cincinnati Bengals

The 2021 Bengals became the franchise's third team to make it to the Super Bowl over the last 45 years

While the Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, this 2021 squad was one of the best in franchise history. Founded by legendary Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown, the Bengals made the playoffs in their third year of existence and went to the Super Bowl twice in the 1980s. But since 1990, they have only made the playoffs eight times and their win over the Las Vegas Raiders this year was their first postseason victory during that period.

Cincinnati still has fielded some good teams in the midst of this turmoil. Here are the 10 best.

10. 1970

Finished: Lost to Baltimore Colts 17-0 in Divisional Round

Regular Season Record: 8-6

Cincinnati rebounded from a 1-6 start to win the AFC Central and make the playoffs in the franchise’s third year of existence. However, the momentum came to a screeching halt in Baltimore when the eventual Super Bowl champion Colts held the Bengals to seven first downs and 139 yards.

9. 1990

Finished: Lost to Los Angeles Raiders in Divisional Round

Regular Season Record: 9-7

The Bengals won their final two regular-season games to win the AFC Central for the second time in three years. Cincy then blew out a Warren Moon-less Houston Oilers team 41-14 in the Wild Card Round but lost to the Los Angeles Raiders the next week. The game was Raiders running back Bo Jackson's last because a hip injury he suffered during the game revealed he had the degenerative bone condition avascular necrosis. Some Bengals fans speculate that the injury put a curse on the franchise.

8. 2005

Finished: Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers 31-17 in the Wild Card Round

Regular Season Record: 11-5

Third-year head coach Marvin Lewis led the Bengals to their first playoff appearance since 1991. Despite losing quarterback Carson Palmer to an ACL tear early in the game against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati still led 17-7 in the second quarter. Then the Super Bowl-bound Steelers scored 24 unanswered points for the win.

7. 1973

Finished: Lost to Miami Dolphins 34-16 in Divisional Round

Regular Season Record: 10-4

Both the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers finished 10-4, but Cincinnati had a better conference record at 8-3 and won the AFC Central. In the postseason, the defending champion Dolphins held the Bengals to 194 yards on their way to a second Super Bowl win.

6. 2013

Finished: Lost to San Diego Chargers 27-10 in the Wild Card Round

Regular Season Record: 11-5

After letting HBO’s "Hard Knocks" cover training camp, Cincinnati won the AFC North and made the playoffs for the third year in a row. Unfortunately, four turnovers and two failed fourth-down conversion attempts proved costly against the Chargers in the postseason.

5. 2015

Finished: Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers 18-16 in the Wild Card Round

Regular Season Record: 12-4

Cincinnati won the AFC Central by two games but found themselves down 15-0 in the fourth quarter to Pittsburgh in the wild-card game. The Bengals scored 16 unanswered points to take the lead with 1:50 left. They likely would have won if two 15-yard penalties by Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict had not put the Steelers in position to kick the game-winning field goal.

4. 1975

Finished: Lost to Oakland Raiders 31-28 in the Divisional Round

Regular Season Record: 11-3

Playing in the AFC Central with defending champion Pittsburgh, the Bengals were 3-3 against their division revivals, but 8-0 against everyone else. Cincinnati earned the sole wild-card spot at the time, but a roughing the punter penalty in the final minute of the Divisional Round game cost the team its chance to meet the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.

3. 2021

Finished: Lost to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI

Regular Season Record: 10-7

Cincinnati was 7-6 on Dec. 12 but rebounded to finish 10-7 and win the AFC North. In the playoffs, the Bengals knocked off the top two AFC seeds in the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs to make the Super Bowl. If not for a game-winning drive by the Rams with less than two minutes, the Queen City might have seen its first Lombardi Trophy.

2. 1981

Finished: Lost to the San Francisco 49ers 26-21 in Super Bowl XVI

Regular Season Record: 12-4

Quarterback Ken Anderson led the NFL in passing as the Bengals handily won the AFC Central and never trailed in the conference portion of the playoffs. In the Super Bowl, San Francisco jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead, but Cincinnati came back to make it respectable.

1. 1988

Finished: Lost to the San Francisco 49ers 20-16 in Super Bowl XXIII

Regular Season Record: 12-4

This team showed the NFL what could be accomplished with a no-huddle offense as Cincinnati led the league in scoring (448 points), rushing yards (2,710), and total yards (6,302). If not for an epic late-game driver by Joe Montana and the 49ers, The Queen City would already have a Lombardi Trophy.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.