After years of watching the Cleveland Browns be a laughingstock, the Cincinnati Bengals are hoping that breeze off the lake doesn’t blow the jokes and the futility down to the Queen City. It appears as though the Bengals are the most likely team to finish last in the AFC North this season.
Cincinnati did finally move on from Marvin Lewis, who won 131 regular season games during his Bengals tenure, but won exactly zero playoff games in seven appearances. New head coach Zac Taylor was thought to be a front-runner for the Cleveland gig, but the Browns stayed in-house and hired Freddie Kitchens. Taylor will now oversee things for the Bengals.
Chief head case Vontaze Burfict is gone and Tyler Kroft moved on to Buffalo, but the Bengals are largely armed with the same team that they had last season. It remains to be seen whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, but Taylor does inherit a roster with some talent and an average quarterback in Andy Dalton. Whether or not he can elevate that group is likely to determine if the Bengals or somebody else finishes last in the spot formerly reserved for the Browns.
All we know for sure is that there is a lot of work to be done.
Super Bowl Odds: +10000
Odds to Win the AFC: +5000
Odds to Win the AFC North: +1600
Season Win Total: 6
(lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
|4||@ Pittsburgh (MNF)||+9||.19|
|8||LA Rams (London)||+13||.11|
Total Expected Wins: 5.94
The winds of change swept through Paul Brown Stadium after last season. The Bengals were 5-3 going into the bye week and lost seven of their last eight games. The Bengals weren’t unlucky. They were just bad. In come Zac Taylor and a new regime and out goes Marvin Lewis, who did do an excellent job of setting coordinators up for success as head coaches for other organizations. That is commendable, but it didn’t help the Bengals, as the brain drain came to a head last season.
The Bengals strengthened the interior of the line by picking up John Miller and also added some cornerback depth with BW Webb. Aside from that, it was a rather quiet offseason.
The Bengals also strengthened the exterior of the offensive line by selecting Jonah Williams in the first round. One of the many problems for the Bengals was the losses of Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth. This offensive line needed to be retooled and Williams and Miller will go a long way in that. Tight end Drew Sample will hopefully be a healthier version of Tyler Eifert, who is still around, but rarely plays.
The Bengals added Ryan Finley in the fourth round to bolster the depth in the quarterback room. With a quarterback guru like Taylor, the drafting of Finley is rather interesting and he could end up getting some starts later this year as the team looks to move on from Dalton.
Joe Mixon seems to be a star. The 22-year-old rushed for 1,168 yards and 4.9 yards per carry last season. He also caught 43 passes for just under 300 yards. He’s a good all-purpose back and a solid piece to build around with this offense. We’ll see if Taylor can draw things up to get AJ Green open, but the Bengals have two bona fide wide receivers in Green and Tyler Boyd, who had over 1,000 yards last season. If anybody can tap into the potential of John Ross, it should be Taylor.
For those looking on a game-by-game basis, the Bengals are likely to be an over team with all of these offensive weapons and a below average defense. Rodney Anderson and Trayveon Williams could see a lot of touches if they make the roster as well, as one is likely to usurp the role formerly held by Gio Bernard.
It all comes down to Dalton. He completed just 61.9% of his passes last season and took 21 sacks in 11 games. He threw 11 picks as well. With extra pressure on him to perform with two years left and no dead money on his contract, the spotlight may never be brighter.
This was a terrible unit last season. Injuries and suspensions played a role, but the Bengals were dead last in the NFL in third-down defense and allowed 6.1 yards per play. They allowed the most yards per drive of any defense and the most yards in the NFL overall. Sometimes defenses struggle because of turnover margin issues, but not the Bengals. They only forced 18 turnovers, but the offense only turned the ball over 17 times.
The defense allowed 7.3 adjusted net yards per pass attempts and allowed 4.7 yards per carry. Burfict is the only notable loss, so maybe this unit can gel, but it’s really hard to squander the production of guys like Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. The Bengals did it anyway. The starting safeties combined for 221 tackles, so we know where the problems were…at the second level. Better health for Nick Vigil may help, but there are still a lot of holes in this boat.
Notes & Nuggets
The Bengals are only projected to be favorites in two games this season, but are also a pick ‘em twice at home. They have trips to London, Oakland, and Seattle, so this is a pretty grueling travel schedule.
Taylor has a football family and his father-in-law is former Packers coach Mike Sherman. His brother is the QB coach for the Eagles. Taylor is also back in Cincinnati, where he was the OC and QB coach for the University of Cincinnati in 2016. He’s got the bloodline and an impressive resume.
Bet the over on game totals, but bet the under on the season win total. The Bengals have a lot of building to do this season. Taylor tabbed Lou Anarumo to run the defense. A more veteran hire would have changed my thoughts a little bit, but this guy has a lot of things to attempt to fix in a short amount of time. The Bengals offense should be just fine, but the defense could be a trainwreck once again.
With a challenging schedule and Dalton likely on his way out the door, there will be a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that plays a role on this team. Taylor has to control a team that had unsupervised recess for years under Marvin Lewis and to try and get them to buy in to what he’s teaching and implementing. I think it’ll be a rocky year. That means take the under.