2016 Record: 6-9-1 – 3rd in AFC North
Passing: Andy Dalton – 4,206 yards, 18 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Jeremy Hill – 839 yards, 9 TD
Receiving: A.J. Green – 964 yards, 4 TD
Tackles: Karlos Dansby – 114
Sacks: Geno Atkins – 9.0
Interceptions: George Iloka, Dre Kirkpatrick, Shawn Williams – 3
RB Joe Mixon
WR John Ross
LB Kevin Minter
OT Andrew Whitworth
OG Kevin Zeitler
LB Karlos Dansby
– Cincinnati’s sheer talent is outstanding. The Bengals are only a year removed from their 12-4 2015 campaign and there haven’t really been too many changes. Dalton, Green, and Eifert form a disgusting air attack, and the defense is filled with talented playmakers. It’s a matter of executing better in 2017.
– The Bengals didn’t fair well in the 2016 standings, but the team was better than the wins and losses showed. Cincinnati went 1-6-1 in one possession games last season. That’s some serious tough luck.
– You can’t overlook the previous consistency of the Dalton-Green era Bengals teams. The Bengals went to the playoffs five straight times from 2011-2015. If you were to tell me last year was an anomaly and Cincy will return to 10-6 or better this year, I wouldn’t doubt you.
– Injuries are a major problem for the Bengals. Injuries to both Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green killed them in 2016. That can not happen this year.
– The Bengals are their own worst enemy. Poor decision making on the field and what can only be described as a serious mental block against the Steelers have shut them down in recent years. This is a Marvin Lewis problem, and the big cat is running out of lives.
– The offensive line has taken a massive hit with the losses of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. Whitworth didn’t give up a sack in 2016 and Zeitler played a huge role in Jeremy Hill’s success as a power runner. These releases came for cap reasons, but it all starts at the line, and you have to wonder if letting both go during the same offseason was a big mistake.
Projection: 8-8, third in AFC North.
In a perfect world Cincinnati would return to their 12-4 form and make it back to the postseason. Unfortunately I just don’t see that happening. Games at Green Bay, Tennessee, Denver, and Minnesota will all be difficult wins, and I don’t see them getting a win against the Steelers this season.
If the offense can stay healthy and get going Cincinnati is very dangerous, but there are just too many question marks to reasonably believe the Bengals can break 8-8 this year.