The Cincinnati Bengals find themselves in a very similar position to the cross-state pro football team. While Andy Dalton has proven far more at the NFL level than Cleveland Browns QB Brandon Weeden, Dalton too enters a “prove it” year where the inconsistencies and poor playoff performances of the past will probably not be accepted.
Other key components for a championship team are in place. Perhaps the league’s greatest pure receiver of the next five years in AJ Green. Perhaps the most ferocious interior defensive presence of the next five years in Geno Atkins. An elite pass-blocking left tackle in Andrew Whitworth to pair with an elite run-blocking right tackle in Andre Brown. Strong secondary with depth headed by extremely underrated CB Leon Hall.
All your typical players on a squad with Super Bowl aspirations are there with this squad from a personnel standpoint, and the coaching staff is not bad either with Marvin Lewis — who has quietly led Cincy to four playoff berths despite the 0-4 record — along with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. It really all comes down to how offensive coordinator Jay Gruden distills production from the passing skills and arm-strength limitations of Dalton.
There’s a collection of offensive tools to succeed without a laser, rocket-arm. Jermaine Greshman has disappointed but still has a chance to prove himself while Tyler Eifert and Gio Bernard provide good short-hit options that can produce in that capacity. We’ll see if Gruden’s vision and Dalton’s passing chops can make this Bengals offense a consistent force to go along with a stingy defense.
Predicted Regular Season Record: 9-7 (3rd in AFC North)
Predicted Finish: Loss in divisional round at New England Patriots
More of Thomas Emerick’s 2013-2014 NFL team predictions: NYG | WAS | PHI | DAL | GB | CHI | DET | MIN | TB | ATL | NO | CAR | SEA | SF | STL | ARI | NE | MIA | BUF | NYJ | BAL | CLE | CIN | PIT
Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google