2013 Record: 8-4
Two years, two frustrating playoff losses in Houston for the Cincinnati Bengals. Young Andy Dalton has had them far overachieving with the help of wide receiver A.J. Green. Dalton threw for 3,669 yards and 27 touchdowns, leading an inexperienced group of receivers. BenJarvus Green-Ellis wasn’t great as the primary running back at just 3.9 yards per carry. It would help him to have more support from another back, possibly forming a running back tandem. He’ll get some of that from Bernard Scott who was injured for most of 2012. The Bengals are a very young team, as not a single guy over the age of 29 caught, threw, or rushed the ball in 2012. Tight end Jermaine Gresham has been a mainstay ever since his 2010 rookie year, fresh out of Oklahoma. Gresham has been remarkably consistent, setting a new career high in receptions. Despite the star power, the Bengals didn’t rank all that highly in overall offense. That would be because of their depth, an area in which they’re sorely lacking. Still, Dalton to Green never gets old, and the Bengals will continue to rely on it a ton in 2013.
Defensively, the Bengals really locked down on pass defense last year. Cornerback Terrence Newman was brought in from the Dallas Cowboys and he helped mentor Dre Kirkpatrick, cornerback drafted from Alabama in the first round last year. Leon Hall starts on the other side with Pacman Jones, creating one of the best secondaries in the NFL. The rest of the defense doesn’t feature as big names, but they got a big one in James Harrison at strong side linebacker. He starts beside Rey Maualuga in what is now an above-average linebacking unit. The Bengals’ defense is highly underrated and the secondary will again be legendary, so opposing quarterbacks in the division (Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco) will have to be extra careful. With a star-studded offense and dominant secondary, the Bengals are well-suited for more success this fall. They might even get that playoff win.