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Ultimate Standings: Bengals' playoff streak, prices keep fans happy

Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports

This story is part of ESPN The Magazine's Oct. 12 Owners Issue. Subscribe today!

Cincinnati Bengals

Overall: 87
Title track: T106
Ownership: 95
Coaching: 99
Players: 82
Fan relations: 108
Affordability: 68
Stadium experience: 108
Bang for the buck: 18
Change from last year: +12

On the field, the Bengals are moving in the right direction -- a 10-5-1 2014 record helped them jump from 99th overall in the Ultimate Standings to 87th this year. Around it, in the seats and concourses? Not so much. To climb higher in the Ultimate Standings, Cincinnati needs to improve an aging facility -- and maybe win a playoff game or two.


What's good

The tickets are still affordable -- seventh cheapest in the NFL -- explaining Cincinnati's No. 18 ranking in our bang for the buck category, the Bengals' highest showing this year by far. This is a good, on-the-rise team that hasn't yet priced tickets accordingly; the average ticket is up just 3 percent from last year. Especially considering reasonable concessions, parking and merchandise prices -- all combined, the price per game is almost $20 cheaper than the NFL average -- now is a good time to go to a Bengals game.


What's bad

That is, in theory it's a good time. The Bengals rank 108th in stadium experience and 108th in fan relations. Paul Brown Stadium opened in 2000, and its amenities are still Web 1.0. The Bengals brass has listened to fans, though, and this offseason spent more than $15 million to replace antiquated video boards, boost up concession areas and the food they serve, and step up security efforts so as to make the at-game viewing experience more pleasant. With six other NFL franchises within about a 250-mile radius of Cincinnati, along with nearby college teams, the Bengals need to do whatever is necessary to keep their fan base happy.


What's new

Despite the very slight price increase this year, the Bengals' biggest jump in our standings came in affordability, where they climbed 23 spots. Next year, they hope stadium experience will climb out of the triple digits: The team recently debuted the stadium's live-updating, in-game fantasy stats on video and ribbon boards. "Fantasy seems to be taking over the world," says Bob Bedinghaus, the team's director of business development. "So our ability to be constantly flashing fantasy stats up there has been something that ... got people's attention." The team's four straight playoff berths have done the same.

Next: Detroit Lions | Full rankings