The Cincinnati Bengals have been quietly good for each of the last two seasons, making the playoffs each year before falling to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. But while the Bengals have played well, they’ve struggled to get respect from the media, with few viewing them as a serious contender. This year, however, that might really change.
The Bengals have a legitimate shot at the AFC North title this year. After the Baltimore Ravens lost several key defensive players, and the Pittsburgh Steelers not looking quite as scary as they did in the past, the door is wide open for the Bengals to become the premiere team in their division.
Andy Dalton has proven himself to be a quality starting quarterback during his first two seasons in the league. Unfortunately, he has yet to command the same respect and hype as other young quarterbacks, like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick, but that could change this year. Dalton will have several key weapons to work with, and if the Bengals get off to a strong start, Dalton will finally get the recognition he deserved for the past two years.
A.J. Green joined the Bengals the same year as Dalton. So far, the two have developed a great chemistry. That connection will likely just grow stronger and stronger as they accumulate more experience with each other. Green has the potential to become one of the best receivers of his generation, and Dalton will reap the benefits of playing wit him as the two hookup on several deep routes.
The Bengals also made an excellent selection with first-round pick Tyler Eifert, who figures to play a major role in the offense right away. Eifert was one of the best tight ends in the draft, and he will become yet another option can that Dalton can be confident in. Quite simply, the Bengals offense should be pretty fun to watch this year.
With the Ravens going through a period of transition, and the Steelers not looking anywhere near as scary as they did in the past, this is the Bengals’ chance to grab the conch and take control of the AFC North. It would hardly be a shock to see them win the division. The Ravens are going to be putting a lot of faith in Joe Flacco, who will have a hard time living up his performance in the playoffs. While they did make some solid picks in the draft, the lack of veterans like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis will not be easy to overcome.
That means the division will likely be the Bengals for the taking. Expect them to get off to a strong start and to finally pick up some key wins against some closest division rivals. The Ravens-Steelers hierarchy is over, and this year is when Cincinnati becomes the class of the AFC North.