At the beginning of last season there were so many questions for the Cincinnati Bengals. How would they replace Carson Palmer at the quarterback position? Where would their big play capability be without Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson or Terrell Owens? How would the team be able to make an impact with so many new faces on the field?
There were so many questions that in the preseason ranks the Bengals were dead last. There were no expectations for them to do anything. With so many new players, a new offensive system, and the crippling affect of Mike Brown the Bengals were expected to be a 0-16 team. No one could have guessed that the Bengals would make the playoffs for only the third time in twenty years. They certainly couldn’t expect their rookie quarterback and wide receiver to be in the Pro Bowl.
Coming into this season the Bengals still have not received the recognition they deserved after last, and are still projected to finish behind Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the division. They didn’t have the best start to the season being crushed by the Ravens in week one on Monday Night Football. However since then they have been making some noise.
With Andy Dalton having a couple of incredible games throwing the ball marked with big plays for the seasons highlight reels this team is now 2-1. They are only second in the division to only Baltimore which has the same record.
Against Cleveland Andy Dalton threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns. This week against Washington, he had 328 yards passing for another three touchdowns. In the last two weeks the offense has put up a total of 72 points in the span of two games. The Bengals are ranked fourth in the league in passing yards per game.
Another aspect to the offense is big play making ability. A.J Green has proven to be one of the best in the NFL with 21 catches so far on the year for 311 yards and two touchdowns. Andrew Hawkins has been a difference maker as well with his bursts of speed out of the slot. He has 12 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns as well. So how far will this high powered Bengals offense lead them?
The next three games are against Jacksonville, Miami, and Cleveland in which are all very beatable opponents and then we play division rival Pittsburgh. I can foresee this team being 5-2 coming into the bye week. However the biggest visible problem of this team is the defense.
The Bengals are ranked 22nd in pass defense and ranked 31st in defending the run. The majority of our remaining schedule consists of teams who love to run the ball in order to set up the pass. The defensive line has been playing great, but the linebackers and secondary haven’t been doing their job. After being ranked top 10 in defense last season this team has to step it up if they have any hopes of making it to the playoffs.
The plus side to our defense so far is the pass rush. The defensive line has been getting after the quarterback, and recorded six sacks against the elusive Robert Griffin III last week. When it comes to crunch time in these games the key to keeping a lead will be getting to the quarterback when passing is the opposing team’s only option. With Carlos Dunlap coming back from injury it strongly helps enhance this defenses chances for improving. The secondary needs to get players back healthy and linebackers need to step it up.
This explosive offense will help the Bengals win a lot of games, however the defense will determine whether or not we are talking about playoffs come December.