The Cincinnati Bengals will open up on the road for the fourth consecutive season, as they take on a Chicago Bears squad that will have a new look on and off the field.
Houston, we have a problem
Cincinnati has been bounced out of the playoffs by the Houston Texans in the last two seasons, including a 19-13 setback a year ago, as it was out-gained by a sizable 420-198 margin.
The Bengals finished the regular season with a 10-6 record, which tied them with the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North standings, but failed to earn the distinction of being called division champs due to a tiebreaker.
Outside looking in
Chicago was the only team in the league that finished with 10 wins and didn’t make the playoffs, as it outscored opponents by a plus-98 margin, but split its six games in the NFC North division.
The Bears will have a new look on the sidelines this year due to the disappointment of not reaching the postseason, with head coach Mark Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer taking over for Lovie Smith and Mike Tice respectively.
Building around Dalton
NFL handicappers may want to look towards the OVER when looking over the betting odds this season, as the Bengals have provided quarterback Andy Dalton some weapons over the past few years, which includes the selections of running back Giovani Bernard and tight end Tyler Eifert in the 2013 NFL draft.
The third-year signal-caller out of TCU has played in all 32 regular-season games in his career—compiling a 83.9 passer rating by throwing 47 touchdowns and 29 interceptions over that span.
Cutler and Marshall
Surprisingly enough, Chicago finished 28th in the NFL in averaging just 206.1 passing yards per game, especially since wide receiver Brandon Marshall posted franchise records of 118 receptions and 1,508 receiving yards.
Bears quarterbacks targeted Marshall on a league-high 39.9 percent passing plays, with Jay Cutler completing just 58.8 percent of his throws.
Expect the offense to be more balanced with Trestman’s offensive philosophy this season, especially with running back Matt Forte getting involved in the passing game again, as he finished with a career-low 44 catches in 2012.
I’m going to recommend that readers back the Bengals as one of their early Week 1 NFL picks, as they finished third in the league with 52 sacks last year, which could present problems for a Bears offensive line that has struggled to protect Cutler since he arrived in the Windy City in 2009.
NFL Week 1 Pick: Cincinnati Bengals +3.5 at Bet 365