Can Dalton get it done for the Bengals?

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's Total QBR of 52.9 indicates he's been average this season. Joe Robbins/AP Images

Now is about when the Cincinnati Bengals should be hitting their stride offensively with third-year quarterback Andy Dalton and a talented array of young skill players around him. They have the deep receiver in A.J. Green. They have two highly drafted young tight ends and multiple backs with complementary skill sets. Their offensive line leads the NFL in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking efficiency metrics.

The arrow should be pointing upward for Cincinnati heading into a potentially defining Week 5 game against the 4-0 New England Patriots. This was looking like the year the Bengals -- winless in the postseason since 1991 -- might break through to win the AFC North and even contend for a championship. Those goals remain in play, but, until further notice, these Bengals could be the most enigmatic team in the NFL -- up one week, down the next and seemingly no closer to knowing where they ultimately are headed.

Vague terms populate the narrative coming out of Cincinnati. The offense is searching for an identity, coordinator Jay Gruden posits. Players talk about not being on the same page. "Inconsistency" is another buzzword. But what is really going on here?