The Cincinnati Bengals have started off the 2012 NFL season with a strong showing and are sitting at 3-2, good for second place in the AFC North. Now that the team has played over a fourth of its season, it is time to reexamine the remaining games.
We now know quite a bit about the 2012 Bengals, as well as a good amount about each remaining opponent.
The season so far has been quite revealing, with the Bengals beating teams they are supposed to beat such as the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins, but falling to teams they have to be competitive against such as the Baltimore Ravens.
Let's take a look at each remaining game on the Bengals schedule now that we know more based on the season thus far, and determine the outcome.
The Bengals handled their AFC North and in-state rival handily in Week 2 of the season, defeating the Cleveland Browns 34-27 in Cincinnati, but the Browns have improved each week and are already a different team.
While the Browns' record on paper is not spectacular, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has looked sharp and rookie running back Trent Richardson is one of the best in the league. Weeden torched the Bengals secondary for 322 yards while Richardson gashed the defense for 109.
The Browns are a better team than they were in Week 2, but so are the Bengals. Cleveland will have cornerback Joe Haden back, but the Bengals will also have a healthy secondary. Cincinnati should still be able to pull out the road win to complete the season sweep.
Prediction: Bengals 27, Browns 13.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall is now healthy and is backed by one of the best defenses in the NFL. For comparison's sake, the Bengals don't have a running game and the defensive unit has been underwhelming thus far.
The first meeting between the two will come down to whether or not the Bengals can jump out to an early lead. Pittsburgh likes to control the clock and play defense.
With how explosive A.J. Green and Andrew Hawkins have been through the air, the Bengals should be able to pull off an upset at home.
Prediction: Bengals 23, Steelers 20.
The Denver Broncos have one of the better passing attacks in the NFL behind Peyton Manning, despite his lack of legitimate targets, and that does not bode well for a Cincinnati defense giving up 230 yards a game through the air.
Cincinnati will be at home for this matchup, but that won't stop Manning from abusing a shaky secondary and a linebacking corps that cannot cover tight ends or receivers in the passing game.
Andy Dalton and the Bengals should be able to keep up with the Broncos aerial attack for most of the game, but the Denver defense so far has had more success against the pass. If the Miami Dolphins can hold A.J. Green in check, so can Champ Bailey and the Broncos.
Broncos win in a shootout.
Prediction: Broncos 38, Bengals 27.
Led by Eli Manning, the Giants are averaging over 420 yards per game, 310 of those through the air, and scoring over 30 points a game.
While Andy Dalton has the ability to take advantage of a mediocre secondary like the one New York has, he might not have an opportunity to do so with his offensive line having to protect him against the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
Dalton's pocket presence has been horrendous this season, and it could be a long day for the offense. Defensively, the Bengals could be picked apart by the other Manning, especially in the short-to-intermediate passing game, which Victor Cruz loves to turn into long touchdowns quickly.
Prediction: Giants 35, Bengals 17.
Cincinnati finally gets a break from a brutal stretch of schedule, but unfortunately, has to travel out west and play in one of the more hostile environments in Kansas City.
The Chiefs are a miserable team, mainly because of the quarterback position. Whether the Bengals face Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn or a yet to be acquired player, he will be one of the softer opponents the defense has faced.
The Kansas City defense has been great against the pass, but horrible against the run. This could work in the Bengals favor if Jay Gruden and Co. use the short passing game as the running game effectively. The Chiefs are a team the Bengals should beat, and they will do so narrowly.
Prediction: Bengals 20, Chiefs 17.
Things continue to stay easy for the Bengals in Week 12 in a matchup Cincinnati fans have been drooling for when Carson Palmer returns to town as the signal-caller for the Oakland Raiders.
Palmer and the Raiders are average in every regard, but their one victory so far this season is a road win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This has all the makings of a trap game.
If healthy, Darren McFadden could give the Bengals defense fits, but Palmer is unlikely to out-duel Andy Dalton through the air thanks to the weapons around each respectively. If this turns into a shootout, then Cincinnati should win with ease.
Prediction: Bengals 30, Raiders 17.
The San Diego Chargers seem like an easy opponent on paper for the Bengals, but that can be deceiving.
San Diego quietly has one of the better defenses in the league with a bend-but-don't-break unit that gives up a lot of yards, but not points.
Offensively, quarterback Philip Rivers has been mediocre again so far, but is a tough matchup for the Bengals defense with weapons like Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd.
San Diego is another trap game for the Bengals, and traveling that far west to face an underrated opponent fighting for a division crown is not going to go well for Cincinnati.
Prediction: Chargers 23, Bengals 10.
The Dallas Cowboys have had an up-and-down season so far, but tout one of the better defensive units in the league and the No. 1 pass defense in the entire NFL.
On the offensive side of things Tony Romo has been inconsistent at best, but is still leading a top-five passing unit in terms of yardage thanks to weapons such as Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.
If Bryant can stay out of trouble, he will be a big mismatch for the Bengals secondary, and Austin in the slot and Jason Witten at tight end will be too much for the Bengals to compete with.
Without a running game to speak of, the Bengals will be forced to pass a lot, which is a horrible idea against Dallas.
Prediction: Cowboys 23, Bengals 13.
The Philadelphia Eagles are another difficult team to figure out. Defensively, they are elite in all categories, but offensively, the statistics are great outside of the horrific number of turnovers and the miserable 16 points per game average.
With the way the Bengals have been getting to opposing quarterbacks so far this season, it would not be at all surprising to see Geno Atkins and Co. wreak havoc on Michael Vick. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek are great weapons, but Vick could have a hard time getting the ball to them.
The wild card in the matchup is running back LeSean McCoy. The Bengals performed well against another elite back in Maurice Jones-Drew, but if he can have a big day, the Eagles could pull out the win.
In the end, the Eagles' stout defense will likely smother the Bengals one-dimensional offense, and Vick will once again be able to do just enough to keep a job and pull out a win.
Prediction: Eagles 17, Bengals 13.
The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to get better as the season wears on each year, and 2012 will be no exception. While Pittsburgh fell to the Bengals in Cincinnati earlier in the season, that won't happen in the Steel City in Week 16.
Pittsburgh will likely be duking it out with the Baltimore Ravens for the divisional crown, so the Steelers won't take the Bengals lightly in this matchup, especially after falling to them earlier in the season.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his explosive receivers should have a big day, and the stout pass defense will turn up big at home.
Prediction: Steelers 27, Bengals 14.
Obviously, at this point in the season, the Bengals' embarrassing loss on Monday Night Football to the Baltimore Ravens is old news, but it will still be fresh on the minds of the Cincinnati players as they look to play spoiler to the Ravens in the final week of the season.
At this point, the Bengals will likely be out of playoff contention and banged up with injuries whereas Ray Rice and the Ravens will have their sights set on a Super Bowl.
This is a trap game for Baltimore, but with the Ravens firing on all cylinders, the defense should be able to shut down Andy Dalton and limit A.J. Green while Joe Flacco should once again be able to pick apart the Bengals pass defense.
Prediction: Ravens 28, Bengals 10.
It's no secret that the Bengals are still a few years away from contending, and the season up to this point has reinforced that ideology.
While A.J. Green and Geno Atkins will likely have career years, some of the positions around them are still lacking.
Offensively, the team desperately needs a running back that can make the unit less one-dimensional, and on defense, an upgrade in a few spots in the secondary is critical.
In 2012, the Bengals will register a few memorable victories, but will be unable to make the postseason once again.
Once again, the Bengals will face a free agency and draft of the utmost importance for the future of the franchise. How they build the roster around the current pieces will either propel them to contention or simply allow them to continue to dabble in mediocrity.
Final Record: 7-9, 3rd in AFC North