Of the Bengals seven regular-season losses last season, six were decided by one possession. Cincinnati was competitive every week outside of a 35-7 drubbing in Pittsburgh. Where could the difference be made up this year? Look no further than the red zone and goal-to-go offense. 

Consider in goal-to-go situations last year Cincinnati converted 14 of 26 into touchdowns. That equates to a 54 percent TD rate which tied for 24th in the NFL. In the Marvin Lewis era that was only the second time the rate dipped below 70 percent. The other came in 2008 when Ryan Fitzpatrick took over for an injured Carson Palmer. 

If Cincinnati converted 70 percent in those situations, it would have added approximately four more touchdowns. That equates to four more points for every touchdown and 16 points on the season. When losing games 20-19 against Houston, 24-22 at Denver and 13-8 against San Francisco, the fortunes of the season could shift dramatically with an average improvement near the end zone.

The disturbing numbers carry over to red-zone TD percentage as well. Cincinnati converted 21 of 53 red zone opportunities into touchdowns. The 45 percent clip ranked 26th in the NFL. The only teams worse were Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington. All of those except for San Francisco finished last in their division with an average of 5.5 wins. 

Even further, 45 percent was the worst for Cincinnati since 2001. 

The Bengals believe they took strides in the area this offseason adding short-yardage specialistBenJarvus Green-Ellis at running back. His 24 touchdowns the past two seasons are only topped by Houston's Arian Foster. New guards Travelle Wharton and first-round pick Kevin Zeitler also bolster the running game, which could be the key to flipping the numbers. 

"I don't think we were awful in the red zone, but we do have to be more efficient," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. "It also means running the ball and being able to pound it and get the tough yards and still be able to utilize play action down there and try to get some easy touchdowns as opposed to trying to squeeze them in tight windows."

For news and notes on the Bengals, follow Paul Dehner Jr. on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLCIN.