The Cincinnati Bengals should have been better than they have been over the last couple of years. The Baltimore Ravens were offensively limited, the Pittsburgh Steelers were too. The Bengals defense has been every bit as good as both of those clubs, but for some reason, the Ravens and Steelers win Super Bowls in today’s NFL, while the Bengals win a first round exit from the playoffs.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (2013 Record: 11-5)
I nearly hit the nail on the head with this pick last summer when I said the Bengals could seriously challenge for the division in 2013. They not only challenged for it, they won it outright. Andy Dalton struggled on the road, however, and the Bengals dropped every single road division game. They did go undefeated at home in the regular season, but then the San Diego Chargers came into Paul Brown Stadium and put them out of the playoffs quite handily.
Key Losses: Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, Brandon Ghee, Andrew Hawkins
Key Acquisitions: Danieal Manning, Jason Campbell, Marshall Newhouse, Dontay Moch, R.J. Stanford, Will Svitek, Sam Montgomery
So after winning the division, the Bengals do nothing in Free Agency except lose Hawkins and they go into the draft with no clear impact players being picked up. Darqueze Dennard has a reputation for playing sloppy that could end up making him one of the most penalized cornerbacks in the NFL and the only player that may help them actually win games this year is Jeremy Hill at running back.
With Andy Dalton turning down a long term deal, the writing may even be on the wall there. This could also explain why A.J. McCarron was picked up in the fifth round. Although, there could be a long term extension in the works as reported last weekend. Either way, for 2014, Dalton will be the Bengals starter and he does still have A.J. Green to make plays with.
The Bengals 2014 schedule is quite daunting with road games against the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and their usual divisional matchups. It gets a little easier at home with the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers early and a huge primetime matchup against our Denver Broncos in Week 16. What makes this schedule of particular concern is having five of their final seven games of the season on the road. Yikes!
Projected Record: 9-7
Kyle: It’s not the playoffs yet, right? Oh okay, then I can say the Bengals are pretty good.
Jon: There’s something about Andy Dalton that just makes me want to doubt his ability to take Cincinnati all the way. I have no idea what it is, but it’s always been that way for me.
Mike: They have the most talent in a mediocre division. But as long as the Ginger has no soul, the Bengals postseason woes will continue.
Laurie: The defense is still tough and even with two new coordinators, the Bengals could be good. If Andy Dalton can throw to the right team in the post season, the Bengals will get the wild card monkey off its back.
Topher: The Bengals are a very talented team with a great defense, strong run game, and a young and developing quarterback. What will slow them down this year is the loss of some of their key coaches, when you lose that much coaching talent, it will have an impact. Luckily the closest team to the Bengals in terms of talent and coaching is the Ravens with the Steelers declining and the Browns still a little ways from contention.
Jacob: The off-season was not kind to the Bengals; they lost Michael Johnson in a free agency period where they didn’t make any moves, and outside of Darqueze Dennard, the draft didn’t bring in any immediate contributors. That being said, Cincinnati is still a very talented team, and should top the AFC North, yet again. 10-12 wins.