Before I predict the final record of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2013 NFL season, let me just say they will without a doubt be AFC contenders. As I see it now, the Bengals and Denver Broncos will be neck-and-neck at the end of the season fighting for the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
The Bengals have made the playoffs each of the last two seasons before falling to the Houston Texans in the wild-card round both years. So we know Cincinnati can get to the postseason, yet advancing has been an issue. However, the redheaded gunslinger Andy Dalton from Katy, Texas who became a star at TCU will be entering his third season as the Bengals starting QB. Not only has he gained experience and poise over the last two seasons, he has shown head coach Marvin Lewis that he has taken the reigns as the leader of this young and talented roster.
Playing within the AFC North, there is no reason to believe that the Bengals can’t be dominant. Yes, the Baltimore Ravens did win Super Bowl XLVII, but they lost several key players to retirement and/or free agency. The other two teams in the division, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, are dealing with their own problems. The Steelers also lost key players to free agency, including linebacker James Harrison, who will be the face of Cincinnati’s new 3-4 defense. Look for Harrison to lineup virtually anywhere within the concept of this new defense to wreak havoc and inflict pain on quarterbacks, running backs and receivers alike.
As far as the Browns are concerned, when was the last time they had a good season? Yes, Brandon Weeden has another year under his belt at QB and the team has improved on paper since last season. However, may I remind you, when was the last time Cleveland had a good season? Well, let’s just say that it has been awhile.
In regards to Cincinnati’s offense, they found themselves an electrifying and powerful running back in that of rookie Giovani Bernard. Let’s not forget the lethally potent Dalton to wide receiver A.J. Green combination for winning. And certainly rookie Tyler Eifert will be a monster at tight end, and he has shown in training camp and within the preseason that he can lineup anywhere within the framework of the offense. With his size, hands and body control, Eifert can be a critical money making red-zone target for Dalton this season.
So, I see the Bengals running away with the AFC North title and easily going 4-2 or 5-1 against their divisional foes. And if we look at the rest of Cincinnati’s regular-season schedule on paper, I see a potential for a few losses, yet I believe they will finish their season 12-4 and earn either the first or second seed in the AFC playoffs. A first round bye and a home playoff game would be monumentally huge for the Bengals.
I believe it is very likely that either the Bengals or Broncos will have the ability to run the table in the AFC playoffs and represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII.