The Bengals are no longer the butt of every joke. They have become a solid franchise. Head Coach Marvin Lewis returns for his 12th year looking to make the jump from playoff team to actual title contenders. They have a talented roster but the losses of coordinators Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer will hurt.
The Offenses go to guy is superstar wide receiver AJ Green. Green had 98 catches for 1426 yards and 11 tds. The rest of the supporting cast isn’t too shabby either. 2nd year running back looks to shoulder more of the load as an all purpose threat after a solid rookie season. Bernard had over 1200 all purpose yards to go along with 8 tds as a rookie. To complement the quick and shifty Bernard Cincy will use either Benjarvus Green- Ellis or draft pick Jeremy Hill out of LSU as their power back. Receiver Marvin Jones has established himself as a quality target as a number 2 guy behind Green. Tight ends Tyler Eiffert and Jermaine Gresham are both athletic receiving tight ends. So it all comes down to Quarterback Andy Dalton, Dalton is a good QB, one you can win with but you don’t win because of. Last year Dalton had one of his best years throwing for 4293 yards and 33 touchdowns as the coaching staff put more on his plate but on the negative side with more responsibility he turned the ball over more, throwing 20 interceptions. He has led the team to a winning record in his time as a starter but has played poorly in 3 first round playoff losses. He was signed to big contract in the offseason so at the least a playoff win is expected this season. The Bengals have a solid offensive line led by tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith.
Coordinator Mike Zimmer turned the Defense into a top 5 unit the last couple of years and he will be missed as will their best pass rusher Michael Johnson who signed a big deal with the Buccaneers. That being said Cincinnati should still have one of the leagues better defensive lines headed up by DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap. They will use a rotation to replace Johnson at the other DE spot. The linebacker position is another strength with star OLB Vontaze Burfict and run stuffing MLB Rey Maualuga holding down the fort. The secondary is deep and talented and could be special if Leon Hall can stay healthy and 1st rd draft choice Darqueze Dennard can play at a high level. They feature 5 starting caliber CBs which is rare in a league where teams struggle to find 1.
The Bengals have talent all over their roster and look to repeat as AFC North champs but it won’t be easy with Pittsburgh and Baltimore both improved. All do have favorable schedules. If they can establish their running game and Dalton can play more consistently while cutting down on turnovers, they will make their way back into the playoffs and possibly win a game while there.
Cincinnati Bengals – Prediction 10-6
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