Cincinnati Bengals' Preseason will Prove Them to be AFC Contenders

By Randy Drautz
Cincinnati Bengals
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals open their preseason slate tonight at 8pm EDT on ESPN against the Atlanta Falcons. First, let’s take a peak back at last season. The Falcons made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game and missed their shot at a Super Bowl losing 28-24 to the San Francisco 49ers. The Bengals, on the other hand, reached the AFC Playoffs for the second straight year in the 2012 NFL season. Inevitably, they again lost to the Houston Texans in the AFC Wild-Card Round 19-13.

Andy Dalton will once again lead the charge at quarterback for the Bengals emerging as their quintessential leader for the first time since he was drafted. A.J. Green will undoubtedly be Cincinnati’s superstar on offense at the wide receiver position. The deadly combination of Dalton to Green will create nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators in the AFC North as well as throughout the league.

Green will not make the trip to Atlanta for the Bengals’ preseason opener due to precautions after sustaining a knee bruise in practice. He plans to return to practice next week and will be available August 17 versus the Tennessee Titans. The redheaded gunslinger QB, Dalton, will start for Cincinnati tonight. Expect him to play most, if not all of the first quarter, which is typical for a preseason opener.

Besides Andy and A.J., the Bengals have a slew of potential rookie starters and difference makers. The 6-foot-6, 251 pound first-round pick at tight end, Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame, can be a game changer between the numbers this season. He has the ability to be a safety net passing target for Dalton especially on third down. This would be monumentally huge for the Bengals as they went 0-for-9 on third down versus Houston in their 19-13 playoff loss. Their first second-round pick, running back Giovani Bernard out of North Carolina, can be a quick and elusive addition to Cincinnati’s offense standing small in stature at 5-foot-8, yet powerful in nature at 202 pounds.

On the defensive side of the football, the Bengals snatched defensive end Margus Hunt from SMU. Hunt is a beast standing 6-foot-8 and weighing 277 pounds. He was the team’s No. 53 overall pick in the second-round. In the third-round, Cincinnati addressed another key need outside of the RB position in grabbing strong safety Shawn Williams at 6-foot, 213 pounds from Georgia with the No. 84 overall pick in the draft.

All four of Cincinnati’s aforementioned draft selections have the ability to be difference makers in their rookie seasons. Look for them to shine during the squad’s four-game preseason schedule as well as when their real season starts against the Chicago Bears on the road at Soldier Field on September 8.

Already a playoff team, the Bengals will become a contender in the AFC in the 2013 NFL season with an improved roster and their backbreaking duo of Dalton and Green.

Randy Drautz is a Denver Nuggets writer for  Follow him on Twitter @RDrautz, “Like” him on  Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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