While coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals shocked everyone a season ago, teams will be prepared for them this year.
ESPN.com had three teams in the AFC North in the top six of easiest 2011 schedules, and all three of those teams made the playoffs last season. In 2012, the AFC North teams will face teams from the AFC West and NFC East.
With a tougher schedule this season, the Bengals need to make adjustments to be even better.
Now that they have a season of experience under their belt, the offense could be one of the biggest surprises in the NFL.
Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer remains in charge of the defense, so it is not crazy to believe this unit can be even better than it was last year.
In a division with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, it is always difficult for a third team to compete for the division title. However, Cincinnati has made the playoffs three times since 2005. Improvements need to be made, but this team has the talent to compete with its division rivals.
A young team gives the Bengals a legitimate shot to improve and be competitive for years to come.