The Bengals hit a home run in last year’s draft when WR A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton were available at the right time. Dalton threw for over 3,300 yards with 20 touchdowns and Green had over 1,000 receiving yards. I cannot remember another pair of rookies who made that big of an impact immediately.
Thanks to Green and Dalton, Cincinnati made the playoffs with a 9-7 record. The casual fan would assume that their offense carried them, but it was their defense that made them a winner. They ranked in the top-10 in passing and rushing defense.
The dreaded sophomore slump is always a possibility when a player looks good as a rookie. Teams will focus their defense on shutting that player down. Dalton and Green will both have to adjust and evolve with the defenses.
Are the Bengals looking at another playoff berth in 2012? Here’s our 2012 NFL team preview for the Cincinnati Bengals. (Ben-Gals cheerleader photo courtesy of my Ben-Gal friend, Britney.)
2011 Win/Loss Record: 9-7
Key Additions: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CB Terrence Newman, DE Jamaal Anderson, CB Jason Allen, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, OG Kevin Zeitler, DT Devon Still, WR Mohamed Sanu, DT Brandon Thompson, TE Orson Charles and RB Daniel ‘Boom’ Herron.
Key Losses: RB Cedric Benson, LB Keith Rivers, OG Bobbie Williams, WR Jerome Simpson, WR Andre Caldwell, DE Jonathan Fanene, LB Brandon Johnson, OG Nate Livings, DE Frostee Rucker, TE Bo Scaife and C Mike McGlynn.
Non-Division Schedule: AFC West and NFC East
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Muhamed Sanu – Cincinnati drafted receivers A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, and Marvin Jones in the last two drafts. All three are tall and fit on the outside. Sanu is more athletic than most realize. Green will be getting double teams and Sanu will be getting man-to-man coverage. Sanu could be worth a late-round pick.
Team Analysis: Dalton and Green are both expected to keep improving. I don’t see either of them taking a step back. I am looking forward to watching BenJarvus Green-Ellis get his shot at being the feature back. I like how Cincinnati improved their secondary by adding Kirkpatrick and Newman to Reggie Nelson, Leon Hall and Nate Clements. Watch out for Carlos Dunlap this season, he’s due for a breakout year. I’m afraid the AFC North is too top-heavy for the Bengals to win it this year. Cincinnati was one of the biggest surprises in 2011, but when you look at their schedule last season, it makes sense. They beat up on weak AFC South teams and were only 2-4 inside their own division. Their non-divisional schedule in 2012 is filled with probable playoff teams. They will have a difficult time improving on their 9-7 record last year. I don’t see them making the playoffs, but look out for them going forward.
2012 Wins Over/Under Line: 8 (Prediction: PUSH)
2012 Projected Win/Loss Record: 8-8