Cincinnati Bengals Predictions
The Cincinnati Bengals were the surprise team in the NFL last season. They opened 6-2 with a pretty easy schedule in the early going. However, things got much tougher in the second half as they still had to play Pittsburgh and Baltimore twice. The Bengals went 3-5 the rest of the way, settling for a 9-7 finish which was good enough to grab the AFC’s final Wildcard spot.
Despite a blowout loss to the Houston Texans in the first round of the playoffs, things are looking up in Cincinnati. This team has gotten rid of some bad apples while adding an influx of young talent through the draft. Here is a look at their personnel on offense and defense, as well as my prediction on where the Bengals finish in the AFC North in 2012.
Cincinnati put up a respectable 21.5 points and 320 total yards per game last season offensively. That’s impressive considering arguably its two best players on this side of the ball were rookies. There is a good chance the offense takes another step forward in ’12.
Andy Dalton played about as good as you could expect for a rookie quarterback in a very tough division. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 3,398 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, while also rushing for 152 yards and a score. Dalton appears to be the QB of the future that the Bengals were hoping for when they drafted him in the second round last year.
The Bengals part ways with leading rusher Cedric Benson (1,067 yards, 3.9/carry, six TD), who has been productive, but also an off-the-field distraction. They have signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis (667 yards, 3.7/carry, 11 TD) from the New England Patriots to be their featured back. Bernard Scott (380 yards, 3.4/carry, three TD) remains a solid backup.
Cincinnati features one of the best young receiving corps in the NFL. AJ Green (65 receptions, 1,057 yards, seven TD) had a breakout rookie season and is sure to be one of the top receivers in the league for years to come. The Bengals drafted Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers) in the third round and he’s supposed to start right away after setting the Big East single-season record for receptions last year. TE Jermaine Gresham (56, 596, six TD) has certainly lived up to the hype.
The offensive line allowed just one sack for every 21.4 passing attempts last year, which ranked fourth in the NFL. It also paved the way for 111 rushing yards per game and 3.9/carry. LT Andrew Whitworth, C Kyle Cook and RT Andre Smith all played well last year and return. The Bengals signed LG Travelle Wharton, who has started every game in two of the last three seasons for the Carolina Panthers. Rookie RG Kevin Zeitler was their first-round pick and brings that nastiness and tenacity from Wisconsin. He’ll start right away.
Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been one of the best in the business since taking over at Cincinnati in 2008. He always seems to get the most out of a stop unit that lacks big names year after year. The Bengals yielded just 20.2 points and 316 total yards per game while ranking #7 in total defense in ’11.
They have arguably the most underrated defensive line in the league. DT Geno Atkins (47 tackles, 7.5 sacks) earned second-team All-Pro last year. He mans the middle alongside NT Domato Peko (66 tackles, 7.5 for loss). The DE rotation features Michael Johnson (42 tackles, 6 sacks), Robert Geathers (29 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Carlos Dunlap (23 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and Jamaal Anderson (24 tackles, 3 sacks), whom they signed from Indianapolis.
The linebacker corps returns intact and is also underrated. Leading the way is MLB Rey Maulaluga (88 tackles, 5 for loss, one INT) and WLB Thomas Howard (99 tackles, 5 for loss). SLB Manny Lawson (52 tackles, 6 for loss) has been re-signed to another season and must prove that he belongs.
The secondary features a solid CB tandem in Nate Clements (55 tackles, 14 passes defended) and Leon Hall (32 tackles, nine passes defended), who went on the IR in Week 9 last year with an injury. To add depth, the Bengals drafted rookie Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) in the first round and signed 34-year-old Terence Newman (53 tackles, eight pass break-ups, four INT) from the Dallas Cowboys. FS Reggie Nelson (85 tackles, 12 pass break-ups, four INT) returns, while Taylor Mays likely replace the departed Chris Crocker at strong safety.
AFC North Prediction – 3rd Place (6-10 Record)
The talent on this roster is as good as it was a year ago, and this young team should only get better with another year of experience under its belt. However, the schedule gets much tougher in ’12 as it goes from #20 to #7 in difficulty. They play the stacked NFC East and an improved AFC West division. With Pittsburgh and Baltimore standing in their way in the AFC North, the Bengals have their work cut out for them to say the least. They won’t be making back-to-back trips to the playoffs, and a .500 season is the best-case scenario.
Individual Team NFL Season Predictions
|AFC West||AFC North||AFC South||AFC East|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Pittsburgh Steelers||Indianapolis Colts||New England Patriots|
|San Diego Chargers||Baltimore Ravens||Jacksonville Jaguars||New York Jets|
|Oakland Raiders||Cleveland Browns||Houston Texans||Miami Dolphins|
|Denver Broncos||Cincinnati Bengals Predictions||Tennessee Titans||Buffalo Bills|
|NFC West||NFC North||NFC South||NFC East|
|Seattle Seahawks||Chicago Bears||Atlanta Falcons||Philadelphia Eagles|
|St. Louis Rams||Green Bay Packers||New Orleans Saints||New York Giants|
|San Francisco 49ers||Detroit Lions||Tampa Bay Bucs||Dallas Cowboys|
|Arizona Cardinals||Minnesota Vikings||Carolina Panthers||Washington Redskins|