The Cincinnati Bengals' playoff shot

The Cincinnati Bengals have an impressive rookie duo in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. AP Photo/Tony Tribble

In pondering the 35-5 start by the 1984 Detroit Tigers, sabermetrician Bill James wondered, "At what point does a hot start become meaningful? At what moment, in April, May or June, do you furlough the assumption that a team is merely hot and recognize that they have become an exceptionally good team?"

In answering that question, James looked for items that could sort out the pretenders from the contenders.

A similar tack can be taken in reviewing the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals. Their 4-2 start is certainly an impressive achievement for a team that won only four games in the 2010 season, but is it an indicator that the Bengals are just off to a good start or an omen that they could contend for a playoff spot?

Let's review some metrics to find out.

The best place to start would be by reviewing the Bengals' quickly improving rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton.

Dalton got off to a very rough start this year, as reflected by his Total QBR ratings: 27.0 in Week 1, 41.2 in Week 2, 14.0 in Week 3 and 26.7 in Week 4. At that time, his season-long Total QBR rating was 26.6, which ranked as the fifth-lowest total in that metric.