They watched their divisional foe, the Baltimore Ravens, come out of virtually nowhere to win the Super Bowl last year, so is this the year that the Bengals make an improbable run through the playoffs? NFL odds recognize the Bengals as a threat this season, so let’s take a look at their diverse and deep offense, which is one of the main reasons they are such big favorites to win the division this season.
The Bengals once again made it to the playoffs last season, they once again had to play the Texans, and they were defeated in the wildcard round by the Texans, once again. Even though the last two seasons have been a bit disappointing when the playoffs come around, the Bengals are well ahead of schedule when it comes to progress and have been great during the regular season.
Andy Dalton once again had a good season, but he did turn the ball over 20 times, and was sacked 46 times. These are areas of improvement he will have to make to ensure the Bengals chances at winning playoff games. Other than that however, the Bengals’ offense was quite good last season. AJ Green has firmly planted himself as one of the toughest covers in the entire NFL, and the running game behind Benjarvus Green-Ellis was surprisingly good.
If the Bengals can improve on their pass blocking, and if Dalton can take another step up, the Bengals might not only be looking to win a playoff game next season, they might have their eyes on winning three or four.
The biggest (and likely only) question mark with the Bengals is Dalton and his presence under center this season. If he can turn into a Top 10 quarterback, this team could very well be the NFL odds wager of the offseason at 30/1 to win the Super Bowl. However, Dalton is still young, but he has made the playoffs in both of his seasons as an NFL quarterback. Improving on the turnovers and holding the ball too long will be key areas of offseason work for Dalton.
I am a little concerned about the Bengals not having a second weapon beside Green, but their TE Jermaine Gresham played pretty well last season, and Andrew Hawkins showed some flashes as a slot receiver. They also drafted Tyler Eifert, and added Giovani Bernard to bolster the running game, so this offense has a ton of options now.
The weapons are all there for Dalton, it just boils down to getting them the football. I expect the offensive line to be better this season, although those 46 sacks taken by Dalton are definitely still an area they could improve on.
While I’ll stop short of labeling the Bengals an "A", they are not far from it. The only reason is they didn’t spend hardly any money on skill players this offseason. They drafted two that will both have roles this upcoming season, but other than that, there are really no veteran skill players on this team besides Green-Ellis. I am very bullish on the Bengals this season for my NFL picks, but I also realize that they could regress some this season if Dalton cannot take the next necessary step of leading this offense.
My Grades: B
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