Coaching intern T.J. Houshmandzadeh draws a comparison instead to the 2005 AFC North champions that ended a 14-year streak without a winning record.
The 2005 offense finished fourth in the NFL, as Carson Palmer led the league with a franchise single-season record 32 touchdown passes, Chad Johnson broke the single-season receiving record with 1,432 yards, and running back Rudi Johnson set the rushing record with 1,458 yards.
Houshmandzadeh finished 44 yards shy of joining Johnson as the Bengals' first 1,000-yard receiving duo, a feat they went on to accomplish in 2006 and 2007.
Rookie third receiver Chris Henry was a dynamic deep threat and red-zone weapon while third-down back Chris Perry hauled in a career-high 51 passes. Not to be overlooked, the offensive line allowed the second-fewest sacks (21) in club history.
Although Houshmandzadeh gives the edge to the 2005 team in two areas, he believes the depth and versatility of the current group puts them over the top.
"Right hand to God. You know I'd tell you the truth," Houshmandzadeh concedes. "I didn't know the Bengals had so many good players. I was shocked. I was genuinely shocked with the amount of players on this team that can play. It's really unbelievable.
"At the skill positions, obviously I'll go with myself and Chad. They have more depth than we had. I think our wide receivers were better, or it's very comparable. Offensive line is about a push. ... They're dynamic at the running back position. They've got great tight end play. They have more weapons, where we relied on myself, Chad, Rudi and No. 9 (Palmer). That's it."
Let's break this down, tale-of-the-tape style:
Jeremy Hill is a more dynamic runner than Rudi Johnson. Giovani Bernard has a major edge on Perry as a second fiddle in the backfield. A.J. Green might not be as quick as Chad Johnson, but he's more of a threat downfield and in the red zone. Mohamed Sanu has been compared to Houshmandzadeh even if his hands aren't as reliable. Marvin Jones' 10 touchdowns in 2013 are more than Henry ever recorded in a season. Tyler Eifert, penciled in for a starring role in Hue Jackson's offense when a dislocated elbow ended his 2014 season in September, is more talented than the Matt Schobel-Reggie Kelly duo of 2005.
"You kind of play to your strength. Our strength was passing. Their strength is more balanced offense. Overall, I think they're probably better. We didn't have the depth."
As always, it comes down to the most important position in professional sports.