5 Reasons Why the Cincinnati Bengals Will Win the AFC North in 2014

5 Reasons Why the Cincinnati Bengals Will Win the AFC North in 2014

Andy Dalton
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There is a large contingent of NFL followers, whether fans or media, that are down on the Cincinnati Bengals after last season's first-round playoff exit. While the club's prospects of winning big games remain in question, Marvin Lewis' team is still the class of the AFC North. Here are five reasons why the Bengals will win the division once again.

5. Wide Gap Between Bengals, Rest of Division

Giovani Bernard
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

5. Wide Gap Between Bengals, Rest of Division

Giovani Bernard
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals ran away with the AFC North in 2013, finishing the regular season with a three-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Perhaps both rivals improved through free agency and the draft, but it's difficult to see the gap between the Bengals and the rest of the division shortening much on paper. Cincinnati is by far the division's most complete team.

4. Emerging Pass Catchers

Tyler Eifert
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

4. Emerging Pass Catchers

Tyler Eifert
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

As effective as Cincinnati's passing game was in 2013, it could be on the verge of getting even better. Two pass catchers, receiver Marvin Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert, appear poised for breakout campaigns. Jones managed 10 touchdowns during his sophomore season last fall despite splitting time with Mohamed Sanu at the No. 2 spot and Eifert possesses the potential to emerge as one of the game's most productive receiving tight ends.

3. Jeremy Hill Improves Running Game

Jeremy Hill
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

3. Jeremy Hill Improves Running Game

Jeremy Hill
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The one area where the Bengals didn't finish in the top 10 last season in regards to total yardage rankings was rushing offense. Cincinnati finished a slightly below average 18th in rushing yards per contest. To compensate, the Bengals nabbed LSU running back Jeremy Hill during May's draft. Hill was considered the top prospect at the position by many analyst and complements second-year back Giovani Bernard nicely.

2. Andy Dalton is Good Enough

Andy Dalton
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2. Andy Dalton is Good Enough

Andy Dalton
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There's no denying how shaky Andy Dalton's play was in the Bengals' first-round playoff exit in January. Through three years in the league, when the moment has gotten bigger, Dalton has often gotten smaller. But he's not the bum some are making him out to be. He's still one of the league's most productive regular-season quarterbacks, and he's more than capable of making enough plays and avoiding enough mistakes to keep the Bengals winning.

1. Bengals Have Top 10 Defense

Geno Atkins
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

1. Bengals Have Top 10 Defense

Geno Atkins
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals ranked in the top five in passing yards and rushing yards allowed last season. And they did so without defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who is one of the best defensive players in the game, for half the year. Losing defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and defensive end Michael Johnson hurts, but the talent is still in place for the defense to finish near the top of the league in several statistical categories.


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