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Sunday August 31, 2008 8:34 am

NFL Preview: Cincinnati Bengals




Posted by Scott Sargent Categories: NFL,

Carson Palmer leads the way for the Cincinnati Bengals

CINCINNATI BENGALS
2007 RECORD: 7-9

Overview: Talk about a fall from grace.  With one of the best turnover ratios in the league only a year prior, the Cincinnati Bengals could not stop anyone on the defensive side of the ball in 2007.  This situation led to several losses, players pointing fingers, and a disappointing season all around.  This year hopes to be different for the men in stripes (no pun intended), as they still have one of the best quarterbacks in the league that is throwing the ball to two premier receivers.  The defense is still a bit on the questionable side, but a progressing group of cornerbacks coupled with some veteran leadership should allow for modest improvement.

Offense: Easily the brightest spot on the team, the Bengals offense is one of the most efficient and fun to watch in the league.  Carson Palmer continues to be one of the most consistent quarterbacks in football.  And when their emotions are kept in line, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson provide Palmer with two of the most lethal weapons in the game.  Though the running game will likely be a committee, having three backs in Rudi Johnson, Kenny Watson, and Chris Perry is a problem that most teams would love to have.  Anticipate a full aerial attack and a 4,000-yard season from Palmer.  But the second that defensive backs are on their heels, do not be surprised to see some smash-mouth running from their three-headed monster. 

Defense: It is when we get to the defense that the Bengals are almost the anti-Baltimore Ravens.  Justin Smith, easily their best defensive lineman, is no longer with the team.  The linebacking corps has been a revolving door ever since Odell Thurman decided to take up extracurricular activities outside of football.  And while Deltha O’Neal offers solid veteran leadership, his career is definitely on the downside.  It will be up to younger players like Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall to step up and fill in the holes which are left by the rest of the team.  Strong play from Joseph and Hall will more than compensate for the inexperience in front of them.

Rookies: Knowing their weaknesses, the Bengals drafted a linebacker in Keith Rivers out of USC with the ninth overall pick.  His holdout worried some, but given the rest of the linebackers ahead of him, Rivers may be in for some considerable playing time this season as the starting weak side linebacker and could very well lead the team in tackles.  Wide receiver Jerome Simpson may see a few targets, but the re-signing of Chris Henry will put a ceiling on this season’s production. 

Prediction: The play of Rivers will be a big “make or break” for the Bengals this season.  This is a team that has the offense to come from behind in any situation, but at times can be their own worst enemy.  The top of the AFC North will be a tight race, but this team should at least be able to sneak out one more win than they did in 2007.  Given their schedule for this year, the Bengals will have a shot at the division title with an 8-8 record.

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