NFL Preview- Cincinnati Bengals
Continuing our NFL preview, we move on to the AFC North and the class of the division, the Cincinnati Bengals. Just three years, calling the Bengals the class of the division would have been a laughable proposition to make, but now they are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances and are primed to win this division again. The biggest question marks are how will the new Offensive and Defensive Coordinators handle their jobs and replace Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, respectively?
At quarterback, the Bengals have settled on the red-headed Andy Dalton. If he gets hurt, the Bengals have veteran Jason Campbell to step in and lead the offense. Does Dalton have options to throw to? He has one of the top receivers in the game in A.J. Green to start with. Dalton also has Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Dane Sanzenbacher at wide receiver. Add Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham as options from the tight end position.
At running back, the Bengals return the "Law Firm" of Benjarvus Green-Ellis and explosive second-year RB Giovanni Bernard. Green-Ellis will continue to provide the tough yards in between the tackles. Bernard will add another dimension on the outside, through both runs and in the passing game.
On defense, the Bengals return disruptive defensive tackle Geno Atkins- who returns from a torn ACL. Vontaze Burfict leads an extremely talented linebacking corps. At cornerback, Leon Hall and Terence Newman after missing time last year due to injuries-- they also have Adam Jones in coverage.
Let's see how their 2014 season will look:
Week 1- Cincinnati opens the 2014 season in Baltimore. This could be the top two teams in the AFC North and will tightly fought contest. In the end, the Bengals will show they are the more complete team. Cincy starts out 1-0.
Week 2- The Bengals have their home opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Though the Falcons will not be as bad as they ended up last year, they still won't have enough to defeat Cincinnati. The Bengals improve to 2-0.
Week 3- They remain home for the Tennessee Titans. The Titans will be relying solely on the arm of Jake Locker-- since they let Chris Johnson go in the offseason. The Bengals may have a fun, easy game in this one. They now stand 3-0.
Week 4- The Bengals have themselves an early bye week.
Week 5- Cincinnati goes to Gillette Stadium to face the Patriots and Tom Brady. While a tough match-up for the Bengals, they will once again make it a long night for Brady and company. Bengals remain undefeated at 4-0.
Week 6- Here comes the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to Paul Brown Stadium. Two of the best defenses facing off against two of the best young QBs in the game. The Bengals offense has a few more weapons at Dalton's disposal, which will be the difference in the game. Cincinnati is now 5-0.
Week 7- The Bengals travel to Indy to face the Andrew Luck-led Colts. Not an easy match-up as both teams bring a lot of talent on offense. Luck has proved to be a great leader in his first two seasons. Cincy suffers their first loss and drop to 5-1.
Week 8- They head back home for the return match with the Ravens. Another tough game for both teams. With Cincy the home team and better team overall, the Bengals come out on top again. Bengals are now 6-1.
Week 9- They remain home against an overmatched Jacksonville squad with a rookie QB in Blake Bortles. They improve to 7-1.
Week 10- The Bengals stay home just four days later against in-state rival Cleveland. The Browns could be much improved and challenging for a playoff spot with Brian Hoyer at QB, or they could be struggling with rookie Johnny Manziel under center. Either way, Cincy goes to 8-1.
Week 11- The Bengals next go to New Orleans to face the Saints. Drew Brees and company at home are almost unstoppable. Cincy falls to 8-2.
Week 12- Cincinnati plays the second of three straight road games in Houston. While the Texans may be getting better, they haven't gotten good enough to beat the Bengals. The Bengals are now 9-2.
Week 13- Cincy next travels to Tampa Bay. The much-improved, Lovie Smith-led Buccaneers steal a huge one from the Bengals. They fall to 9-3.
Week 14- They head back home to host the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a tough rivalry match between two teams have no love lost between them. With this rivalry, the home gets the advantage. Cincy is now 10-3.
Week 15- Cincy travels to Cleveland and adds another notch to the win column. They improve to 11-3.
Week 16- The Bengals host the Denver Broncos and struggle to stop Peyton Manning and his multitude of weapons. They lose and drop to 11-4.
Week 17- Cincinnati goes to Pittsburgh and struggle against their bitter rivals and lose, but still clinch the division title. They finish 11-5.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a strong squad that with a defense to reckon with and an offense that can be very explosive. They will be in the playoffs for a third-straight year and will actually win at least a playoff game this year.