You can take it to the bank the Cincinnati Bengals and coach Marvin Lewis will either match or surpass last season win total of 12 games.
What we don’t know is if the Bengals will finally win a playoff game
The Bengals have made the playoffs every year since 2011, and they’ve been a model of consistency in several areas. Quarterback Andy Dalton was having his best year before he got hurt last season; they re-signed A.J. Green, one of the best receivers in the league; and they return a solid defensive line led by Geno Atkins, considered by many one of the best defenders in the NFL. Sure, the team hasn’t been able to win in the playoffs, but they’ve had no problem getting there.
Playoff streaks have got to end sometime, right? At this point, the postseason woes might just be mental. The Bengals will be without starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict for three games, which isn’t good when they’ve got their division rival in the Steelers coming up in Week 2. Their early schedule doesn’t do them any favors, and they get the pleasure of traveling to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to face the Patriots in Week 6 -- quarterback Tom Brady’s first home game back from suspension. The Bengals also have issues at wide receiver beyond A.J. Green and a host of injuries piling up. They also have to figure out life without offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who is now the head coach of the Browns.
The Bengals will open the season on the road against the Jets in New York on Sept. 11 and then travel to league rival Pittsburgh on Sept. 18 before hosting their home opener against the Super Bowl champion Broncos on Sept. 25.
Dalton was on track for 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns before he got hurt in December. Backup AJ McCarron acquitted himself well in relief. So the Bengals are looking good at QB ... unless it was all some Hue Jackson magic trick. -- Dan Graziano
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the best players in the league and was blowing through offensive linemen as if they weren’t there in the preseason. Another year with a strong pass rush led by Atkins could put the Bengals defense over the top..
Fantasy owners might be wary of running back Jeremy Hill after his sophomore slump last season, but it seems a more mature, committed Hill has shown up this season. Hill will still split the carries with teammate Giovani Bernard, but the lack of weapons at wideout might open the door for more of a run-first offense under coordinator Ken Zampese.
The team hasn’t won a playoff game since before some of their players were born, but they’re going to have to pretend they’ve been there before. Emotions got the best of some players in the meltdown against the Steelers, and they’ll need to put that behind them quickly with a rematch coming up.