Bengals Season Win Total Prediction
Marvin Lewis has guided the Bengals to five straight postseasons. Nevertheless, is it mandatory for him to secure a January victory this time around?
The veteran head coach’s task of finally halting Cincinnati’s streak of five consecutive first-round defeats became considerably tougher on Jan. 13. That’s when esteemed offensive coordinator Hue Jackson agreed to pilot the Browns. The AFC North could feature more brutality than ever, too, with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and even Cleveland loading up to unseat the defending division champion.
All the same, the Bengals return an extremely gifted core in 2016. Quarterback Andy Dalton and A.J. Green will continue to make sweet music together, and defensive tackle Geno Atkins’ re-emergence certainly enhances the reputation of Paul Guenther’s unit. Taking everything into account, online sports book Bovada.lv projects Cincinnati for 9.5 wins.
At 28, Dalton remains a sturdy, if unspectacular, trigger man. The Texas native obviously receives a ton of flak for his shaky playoff résumé. Yet you won’t find many AFC signal-callers who have crafted as consistently good a career as Dalton. He’s a virtual lock for 3,500 yards through the air and 25-plus touchdowns.
With Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu no longer on the roster, Green may well lead the league in targets. The Georgia product is arguably the finest route runner going, and everybody knows about that absurd catch radius. Green’s primary sidekick in the passing attack figures to be Tyler Eifert. The tight end absolutely erupted last fall, snatching 52 balls for 615 yards and 13 TDs. Ankle surgery probably jeopardizes his availability for Week 1 vs. the Jets, but we’re referring to one of the sport’s premier red-zone threats here.
As new OC Ken Zampese gradually gets comfortable in the Queen City, expect him to lean rather heavily on the dynamic tandem in the backfield. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard complement each other beautifully. While Hill must stop putting the rock on the ground, his willingness to initiate and absorb contact represents a godsend in the ultra-physical AFC North. Bernard usually controls the perimeter, but he won’t necessarily shy away from plunging into the interior either.
Paul Alexander’s O-line rarely garners much praise. That’s borderline criminal, because Andrew Whitworth and Cedric Ogbuehi, in particular, perform excellent work. If there’s a weak spot, look no further than the individual making line calls and adjustments. Russell Bodine tends to allow a lot of penetration inside. Interestingly, Cincy did spend draft picks on heavyweights Andrew Billings and Christian Westerman.
The D revolves around Atkins, who amassed 11 sacks and infinite hurries a year ago. Rivals frequently double-team the 6-foot-1, 300-pounder, opening up blitzing lanes for Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. The Bengals’ linebackers love shooting the gaps as well, even though Vontaze Burfict stands to miss the first three games due to suspension. In any event, however, the front seven should shine.
In the secondary, rookie cornerback William Jackson III injects some fresh blood into a group that includes mainstays Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard. Safeties George Iloka, Shawn Williams and Derron Smith handle their business more quietly, yet with equal aplomb. At the end of the day, Cincinnati simply doesn’t surrender those big gains over the top.
If only the squad were as adept at the mental part of the equation. That wild-card weekend collapse against the Steelers was an ugly reminder of the Bengals’ still-pervasive lapses. Cornerstones clearly exist, but we honestly envision a collective step backward.
MONDAY NFL FREE PICK: CINCINNATI BENGALS UNDER 9.5 WINS