In 2012, the Cincinnati Bengals nearly won the division, being tied with the Ravens with a record of 10-6.
With improvements made in the offseason, the Bengals look to be one of the most balanced teams in the NFL.
From their defensive line to their wide receivers, you see stars, impact players, and leaders.
On the offense, we've got the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton, who has 52 (passing and rushing) touchdowns over the past two years. And don't you dare forget his partner in crime, A.J. Green.
Being one of the best wide receivers today, Green is a top round fantasy pick and HUGE asset to the Bengals. The rest of the offense is pretty balanced, with an offensive line that gave up 48 sacks, a running back, Benjarvis Green-Ellis, who gained over 1,000 yards last season, and a tight end who took second in yards and catches last season in Jermaine Gresham.
On defense last year, they whailed the quarterback with 51 sacks. As great as that is, expect even more with the addition of James Harrison from their rival, the Pittsburg Steelers. And don't even forget about Geno Atkins. Oh, and also don't forget Peko, Johnson, or Dunlap either.
They'll be wreaking havoc all year. As for the secondary, they've got a pretty balanced gang, who took the ball out of the air 14 times last year. Reggie Nelson, who stole it three times, will be a big help again at safety, while Vontaze Burfict (who led the team in tackles with 127) and Rey Maualuga (122 tackles) should help out tons in the run game.
I already predicted that the Bengals will win the division this year, but with the regular season almost here, I'm going to explain how their games will be.
Game 1: September 8th at Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are starting almost fresh, on both sides of the ball. Without their defensive leader, Brian Urlacher, I feel that the defense will be very misdirected and won't be as effective and ruthless.
On offense, the new scheme will have Cutler doing a few read-options. This could help, but Cutler isn't the fastest guy, and this could get him hurt. Plus, the Bengals' defensive line should dominate Cutler's terrible offensive line, and make sure he's on his back.
Even though the Bengals will be on the road, they will get six sacks and an interception and a win.
Bengals win, 21-13
Game 2: September 16th vs. Pittsburg Steelers
What a way to open at home; with a division rival. The Steelers are old, slow, and gave the Bengals one of their best players. Ben Roethlisberger is in the backfield with a new runningback, yet they're both injury prone. Even with Big Ben's ten years of experience and nimble feet, he will panic when James Harrison is running full speed at his ex-quarterback. The rusty-old defense will do their best to stop A.J. Green and Green-Ellis, but won't succeed with lack of speed.
The Bengals are younger and quicker, and will out power the Steelers, especially at home.
Bengals win, 20-10
Game 3: September 22nd vs. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are not a pushover team. Even with Greg Jennings gone, the offense will still shine. Rodgers holds the ball too long, but his footwork will make up for it. On defense, the Packers will be outplayed, getting beat due to lack of the veteran Charles Woodson, and the lack of talent in the safety play. This game will end up being a shoot-out.
The Bengals may have the advantage in team balance, but Aaron Rodgers will be too much for them to handle.
Packers win, 38-27
Game 4: September 29th at Cleveland Browns
Fans in this division might not want to hear it, but these two teams are taking control of the division, or atleast evening out the playing field. With the Bengals traveling out to Cleveland, the challenge will be a bit harder than they think.
With a revamped defense, the running game will be harder to get going, with Paul Kruger to play against, and A.J. Green could get shut down by Joe Haden. The Browns' offense could use some work though. With a lack of receivers, the run game will be a must for the Browns. Sadly, it won't be enough.
The Browns will make it a low scoring game, but won't be able to knock them out on offense.
Bengals win, 13-7
Game 5: October 6th vs. New England Patriots
The Patriots are going to be a tricky one for the Bengals. With a lack of decent receivers, Tom Brady will still be a threat, but the Bengals will still have an advantage. If the defensive line can get to Brady, it will be even better for them. The run game is also a threat, with very good depth all around. The defense is one of the best in the league, and could wreak havok against the Bengals. The run game will be a good asset.
With these teams being evenly matched on defense, it should be a low scoring game, but Brady plays to win.
Patriots win, 24-14
Game 6: October 13th at Buffalo Bills
The Bills have a new quarterback, who seems a bit shaky. That will be a huge asset to the revamped d-line of the Bengals, who will pressure him hard. This will really throw off the offense. As for the defense, the Bills' secondary will step up to the plate and make sure there's a lack of deep throws to A.J. Green. This will make the Bengals rely on the short yardage plays and run game.
With the defense putting EJ Manuel out of his comfort zone, this should be an easy game.
Bengals win, 24-3
Game 7: October 20th at Detroit Lions
The Lions have ramped up a few things in the offseason. Their defensive line will dominate, sacking Dalton a couple of times and making him force throws. The offense will dominate as well, with Matthew Stafford throwing deep to Calvin Johnson Jr. and dumping it off to Reggie Bush when he feels pressure. This will prove to be a difficult game for the Bengals. I've already said the Lions have a good chance of competing for the division.
The Bengals will put up a good fight, but will be outplayed on every side of the ball.
Lions win, 24-17
Game 8: October 27th New York Jets
The Jets are probably one of the worst teams in the NFL, so this should be short and sweet. Mark Sanchez has only thrown for less than 18 interceptions once in his career. Even if Geno Smith gets the start, the lack of offensive weapons will kill them. On defense, they lack the secondary to stop Green, even if they have their first round pick, cornerback Dee Milliner.
Bengals will dominate. Sanchez will buttfumble 4 times and throw 22 interceptions.
Bengals win, 27-10
Game 9: October 31st at Miami Dolphins
With a few new weapons, the Dolphins look to be a playoff team. The Bengals will struggle to keep Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace down, giving Ryan Tannehill a good chance to score points, so long as he can stay upright.
The defense isn't going to be as threatening, except in the run game. Green should be able to get some good yardage, but Green-Ellis wont be able to get much.
Expect it to be a good offensive game, high scoring.
The Bengals won't be able to compete with the high-octane offense of the Dolphins, but will put up a good fight.
Dolphins win, 24-21
Game 10: November 10th at Baltimore Ravens
The defending champions of the NFL have gotten a huge makeover over the the offseason. A new defense won't make up for the loss of weapons on offense, especially with the tight end injuries. The powerful defenses will make it a low scoring game, but the rival offenses will do their best to stick it to the other team.
Even though Joe Flacco won the Super Bowl, he is not elite. He needs his team, but he's got a very good defense to back him up at home. That will be key.
Ravens win, 14-13
Game 11: November 17th vs. Cleveland Browns
The Browns get to travel to Cincinatti for this one. They beat the Browns in Cleveland, and home-field advantage will just make them play better. Sleeping in a strange bed can do that to you.
They're division rivals, and the Bengals will look to put the Browns away, 0-2, against them. A good game at home is a great way to break a two-loss away streak.
Bengals win, 17-10
Game 12: December 1st at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers might not do too well this year. Philip Rivers may not be throwing as many interceptions and they have a decent and non-fumbling (thank goodness) running back in Danny Woodhead, but three players have ACL injuries that could put them out the entire year, including two linebackers and their No. 2 receiver, Denario Alexander. Malcom Floyd strained his knee, which could slow him down a lot. Granted, he'll probably be back by Dec. 1st, but the Chargers are still lacking weapons.
The Chargers will hopefully play well, for their sake, but I don't believe they can really compete this year.
Bengals win, 35-10
Game 13: December 8th vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts look like they'll be making the playoffs for years to come. Andrew Luck could be one of the best quarterbacks in history, especially when it comes to comebacks. With his violent offense, they will play hard against the Bengals. Their defense is decent, and could hold their own against the Bengals' offense. Don't expect the Bengals to get shut out by their defense though, especially with Green to go deep.
The Colts will prove to be a worthy opponent, for sure. The Bengals may lead for a bit, but even so, I believe Luck will pull a comeback out of his sleeve.
Colts win, 35-31
Game 14: December 15th at Pittsburg Steelers
The Bengals get to travel for this divisional game. I predicted that the Steelers would lose in Cincinnati, but at home will be a bit easier for them.
Even in Pittsburg, I believe the Bengals will be too much for them. The Steelers have just too few weapons and won't be able to keep up with the Bengals.
Bengals win, 27-21
Game 15: December 22nd vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings made the playoffs last year, luckily, due to the Bears' downfall at the end of the season. The Vikings added Greg Jennings in replace of the traded Percy Harvin, but he too is a bit injury prone.
Even if he does stay healthy until this game, I believe the secondary can contain him and Christian Ponder's decent skill. As for Adrian Peterson, I feel that he may run all over them, like everyone else he faces. Even so, the defense wont be able to stop Green, especially without Antoine Winfield.
The efforts of All Day wont stop the Bengals from scoring on his lousy defense. He needs help on the other side of the ball to win.
Bengals win, 31-21
Game 16: December 29th vs. Baltimore Ravens
What a better way to end the season than at home against the division rival and Super Bowl Champion Ravens. I predicted that the Ravens would battle it out and come up just barely victorious at home. But on the road is a different thing. These Bengals would be on a predicted two-win streak, and would look to snag a third before the playoffs.
The Bengals would be fighting for a 10-6 record opposed to a 9-7, so they'll be fighting hard. Hopefully that way, they can win the division as well.
Bengals win, 28-24
The Bengals will finish the season, winning a nice total of 10 games, and go 5-1 against their division. This puts them into the playoffs, either leading the division (based on how well the Ravens do) or in the wild card. Hopefully they wont play the Houston Texans again!