Cincinnati suffered their first losing season last year since 2010 and by all appearance their window as a team that can make a run to win the AFC and advance to the Super Bowl is closed.
Most sportsbooks with AFC championship odds have the Bengals at either 9th or 10th best bet and Bookmaker has Cincy as a real long shot at +6000 to take home a Lombardi trophy.
By strength of schedule, Cincinnati's path is hardly imposing, ranked 29th of out 32. However, facing Cleveland twice and hosting Chicago has a great deal to do with that.
In looking to make NFL picks, the Bengals could actually start fast if they have full complement of players, as they will play three of first five games at home, including the first two of the season, which has not happened in 34 years. Having Baltimore (+1.5 point underdogs) and Houston to start the year are not certain wins, but give the Bengals a chance. It should be noted this is somewhat more complicated than it appears since it will be a Sunday/Thursday scheduling setup.
A trip to Green Bay is likely a setback, but at Cleveland the following Sunday is winnable. This is followed up by a home game versus Buffalo, thus, a 4-1 or 3-2 beginning to the season is quite possible.
Coach Marvin Lewis' squad will need it, because starting on Oct.22nd, the NFL odds start to stack up against the Bengals. In order Cincinnati will be at Pittsburgh, hosting Andrew Luck and Indianapolis, followed by a rugged three-game road trip to Jacksonville, Tennessee and at a mile high in Denver.
Health has been a big issue for the Bengals the last couple years and if they can keep their playmakers on the field, a 10-6 campaign is possible, otherwise 8-8 or 7-9 is the likely outcome.