The Bengals finished a strike-shortened season at 7-2, tied for the second-best record in the AFC. QB Ken Anderson was at the height of his Cincinnati prowess, winning his fourth NFL passing title (95.3 rating). Anderson stands through 2017 as the only Bengal to win more than two major NFL season titles of any variety. Anderson's 70.55 completion percentage was an NFL season record at the time, and through '17 it still stands as third-best in league history. Anderson also set a standing Bengals season record for passing yards per game, at 277.2 Isaac Curtis and Cris Collinsworth were in their second year as a Cadillac duo at wide receiver, helping Anderson to his high marks. But a players' strike began after Week 2 and lasted 57 days, until Nov. 17. Games scheduled in Weeks 3-9 wound up being canceled, and Week 10 games were rescheduled for Jan. 2, a week after the regular season had been scheduled to end. They were the first NFL regular-season games not played in the calendar year of the season. The defending AFC champion Bengals split their first two games, and when play resumed after the strike, they established themselves as again one of the top clubs in the conference, winning four straight to stand at 5-1. Cincinnati was 6-1 in its seven post-strike games, the only loss being a memorable 50-34 Monday night shootout at San Diego. In that game, Anderson set a Bengals record for completions (40) that still stands through 2017, but the Chargers' 661 yards net offense stands as the most ever allowed by the Bengals, and Chargers WR Wes Chandler set a still-standing Cincinnati opponents' record with 260 receiving yards. Buoyed by the previous season's AFC championship and the strong regular-season finish, Bengals fans had high hopes of a second straight Super Bowl appearance as the playoffs began. But in one of the most stunning losses in Bengals history, Cincinnati opened an expanded playoff format by falling 44-17 to the underdog N.Y. Jets at Riverfront Stadium. The Jets' point total stands through 2017 as the most ever in the playoffs against the Bengals, and Freeman McNeil's 202 rushing yards also still stand as a Bengals opponent playoff record. Four Bengals went to the Pro Bowl — Anderson, WR Cris Collinsworth, OT Anthony Munoz and TE Dan Ross. The nine regular-season games played were the fewest in the NFL since 1934, the year before the league adopted standard number of games for all teams. Bengals players were among the first to vote as a team to end the strike, doing so Nov. 11 in a meeting at the club's Spinney Field practice facility.
The defending AFC Champion Bengals lost an early 14-3 lead and were dismantled by the underdog Jets. The 7-2 Bengals were the AFC's No. 3 seed in 16-team "Super Bowl Tournament," organized for the strike-shortened regular season. RB Freeman McNeil led No. 6 seed New York, rushing for 202 yards and a TD against Cincinnati's No. 3-ranked rush defense. Cincinnati trailed only 23-17 after three periods, but suffered a particularly demoralizing fourth quarter, which included two INTs (one for a TD), a TD pass nullified by a false start penalty, a missed FG, a lost fumble and two rushing TDs allowed.