Cincinnati NFL Free Picks
The Cincinnati Bengals broke through a year, winning the AFC North on the back of an 11-5 record, enjoying major improvements on both sides of the football.
The team was again ousted in the opening round of the playoffs, but they enter this upcoming season with a solid foundation to build upon.
Bengals 2013 Record: 11-5
Bengals AFC North Lines: +190
Bengals AFC Lines: +1400
Bengals Super Bowl Lines: +3000
The first and most important question surrounding the Bengals is under center. The team gave quarterback Andy Dalton a rich new contract in the offseason, and, while he’s guided the team to 30 wins in his first three seasons, the team is 0-3 in the postseason with him at the helm.
Dalton has thrown for only one postseason touchdown while firing six balls to the opposing team in that span, even turning the ball over in three straight possessions in the team’s playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers last season.
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New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will do his best to limit Dalton’s opportunities to turn the ball over this season, by installing a simpler offense that is designed to get the TCU product completing shorter, quicker passes at a higher percentage.
There’s certainly plenty of receiving talent for Dalton to work with. Top wideout A.J. Green ranks among the best at the position, while Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are green but have plenty of skill. Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert form one of the better young tight end tandems in football.
Behind Dalton will be a strong running game, one which Jackson will surely lean heavily on. Sophomore running back Giovani Bernard accumulated over 1,200 yards from scrimmage and eight total touchdowns in his rookie season. He’ll share the load with Jeremy Hill, a highly regarded rookie out of LSU.
Bernard is expected to see a greater share of the ball this upcoming season after ending up with a similar number of touches as backfield mate BenJarvus Green-Ellis last season, but don’t be surprised if he again finds a similar split with Hill this season. The Bengals know they have a special player in Bernard, but they also know he isn’t built to carry the load all by himself, and that is why Hill was brought in.
On the defensive side of the ball, the thing the Bengals did best a year ago was bring pressure with their defensive front, but that unit took a hit in the offseason. Defensive end Michael Johnson moved on to greener pastures in Tampa Bay, and defensive tackle Geno Atkins may not be ready for the season after his knee blew up on Halloween.
The bigger concerns come in the secondary, where the team will be relying heavily on oft-injured cornerback Leon Hall, and unproven rookie Darqueze Dennard to slow opposing passing games.
The team’s defense dealt with a litany of injuries a year ago and still finished with the No. 3 unit in the NFL, so maybe their depth will win out. New defensive coordinator Paul Guenther sure hopes that’s the case as he looks to fill Mike Zimmer’s shoes.
Bengals Futures Pick & Outlook
The Bengals look to again be the class of the AFC North. The team certainly isn’t perfect, and may not quite be ready to compete with the AFC elite, but they have fewer question marks than their divisional rivals from Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
The team’s defense should be again rank as one of the better units and football, and if they can continue their consistently solid play at home, the rest should take care of itself. A 11-5 season could be in the cards for the Bengals, but whether they can get over the playoff hump that has haunted them will be another story.
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