Let me just preface this article by stating that if the Bengals start to fall apart this week that it isn’t my fault. I seem to have the black hand when it comes to writing good things about NFL players and NFL teams. I praise them and BOOM they start to come apart at the seams.

My first article for footballnation.net was titled The Unfair Scrutiny of Tony Romo. I argued that Romo was a championship quarterback (I still believe he is) who takes too much heat for his teams failure. Romo is having the worst year of his career.

A few weeks later I followed with my next article: Why the Philadelphia Eagles will win the Super Bowl. Ouch. Next I wrote about how the Seattle Seahawks will be the NFL’s 2012 surprise team…… led by Matt Flynn.  Strike three? Maybe so.

As I watch all of the NFL games each Sunday one team really jumps out at me as a solid team with a good young core of players and a pretty good quarterback. For years now the Cincinnati Bengals have been the subject of ridicule and the butt of football jokes everywhere. This is the franchise being run into the ground by Owner/GM Paul Brown. This is the franchise that has NO SCOUTING DEPARTMENT.  This was the franchise that Carson Palmer quit on.

Sure, they made the playoffs last year but that was a fluke with a rookie quarterback who got lucky and probably won’t be as good this year, right? So far Andy Dalton is better than most people (myself included) expected. Dalton has passed for over 2700 YDS with 23 TD’s and 11 INT’s. He is completing over 63% of his passes and has a QB rating of 94.0. He is 4th in total TD’s behind Brady, Manning, Rodgers and some guy named Brees.

Helping Dalton’s cause is future All Pro WR AJ Green. When Green came out I argued with a friend that Julio Jones would be better. Green is third in the NFL with 1022 YDS receiving and tied for first in the NFL with 10 TD’s.  Green averages over 92 YDS per game. He’s scored a TD in all but two games this season. Julio Jones is no scrub. I was wrong yet again.

The Bengal defense is in the top ten allowing 334 yards per game. They have a good young core of defensive players including Geno Adkins, Carlos Dunlap and Leon Hall. They are also near the top of the league with 11 interceptions on the year.

The offense has been stellar averaging over 358 yards per game. The bulk of that comes in the passing game but the addition of BenJarvus Green-Ellis has helped the Bengals up their rushing average to over 113 YDS per game.

The AFC North is all but clinched by the Baltimore Ravens. Looking at the AFC playoff picture there will be 3 teams: Bengals, Steelers and Colts fighting for two wildcard spots.  The Bengals are 6-5 and have reeled off 3 straight wins. The schedule is favorable for the Bengals with the Chargers, Cowboys and Eagles on deck the next three weeks. The December 23rd game in Pittsburgh may play a pivotal role as to who gets the wildcard in the AFC.  Don’t count these Bengals out.

This Bengal team is young and finally has the right pieces in place to be successful for years to come. There are only 3 players on the roster that have been in the NFL longer than 10 years.  Andy Dalton has proven thus far that he is a solid NFL QB. With players like AJ Green, Mohamed Sanu and Green Ellis of offense and playmakers on defense like Reggie Nelson and Vontaze Burfict this team will be a contender for years to come.  The Bengals should become a force to be reckoned with and in time will no longer be the laughing stock of the NFL.