Cincinnati Bengals, in the minds of people is a mixed thought. There's people that believe in where the Bengals are going with this 2009 off season and you'll see those people at "The Jungle" this year.
Then there's the people who look at the past eighteen years and laugh, but I believe that the Bengals will quiet alot of people this year.
I'll start with last season, 2008, what a year for the Orange and Black. Carson Palmer was injured in Week Five, and they start the first half of the season 0-8. After the season was over, Cincy lost their most reliable offensive player.
The Bengals did finish the second half of the season 4-3-1, including going 3-0 in December, Cedric Benson ran for a combined 355 yards in the final three games of the season and we picked up another reliable wide receiver to replace Houshmandzadeh.
This offseason may have been the greatest offseason the Bengals have ever had.
To start things off our starting quarterback Carson Palmer will back in the line-up and that is the first of great news for Bengal fans. Just with Palmer back taking snaps it will be an up year for Cincinnati.
The Bengals did exceptionally well in the 2009 Draft.
They picked up OT Andre Smith, a top five prospect, in Round One, they got a steal in picking up USC linebacker Rey Maualuga, DE Michael Johnson, and TE Chase Coffman out of Missouri, just to name a few.
In Free Agency the Bengals resigned RB Cedric Benson, LB Darryl Blackstock, S Chris Crocker, RB DeDe Dorsey, LB Rashad Jeanty, and LB Brandon Johnson.
Cincinnati signed WR Laveranues Coles, to replace T.J. Houshmandzadeh, DT Tank Johnson, QB J.T. O'Sullivan, who will serve as a very good back-up quarterback, and five time Pro-Bowl safety Roy Williams.
We did lose some players in Free Agent, such as. OT Stacy Andrews, back-up quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, C Eric Ghiaciuc, WR Glenn Holt, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, & another wide out Marcus Maxwell.
Last but not least , the Bengals traded DT Orien Harris for RB/FB Brian Leonard. Leonard was drafted in 2007 by the St. Louis Rams in the Second Round.
Now for the predictions.
I expect the Bengals to have a 10-6 record at the end of a season and on the brink of earning a wildcard spot.
Cincinnati is playing a much easier schedule than last year, where they had to play the NFC East and the AFC South. They played six out of 12 playoff teams and three out of the four we're in the Conference Finals. Also, eight out of the 13 teams they played had winning seasons and two more had .500 records.
This year the Bengals draw the AFC West and NFC North, where only four out of the 13 teams had winning records last year. Cincinnati will have the 11th easiest schedule going into the 2009 season.
Of course there's going to have to be some things to happen for us to exceed this season and get to that 10-6 season or better.
First off, Palmer will have to stay healthy. This might be the most important key for a successful season. After getting injured in the 2005 playoffs and last season, hopefully moving Whitworth to LT and starting Andre Smith at RT, will be the final piece in Palmer upright.
We will need a big showing from all our backs and receivers including Benson, Leonard, Henry, Coles, and even Ochocinco; even though he is another no-show to the voluntary practices. If we don't have a successful running game and Palmer doesn't have reliable receivers to throw to, it might not matter if stays healthy.
I personally was very impressed with our defense moving from 28th in the league all the way to 12th after only one year with Coach Zimmer last season.
We should only expect great things from the Bengals defense this upcoming season.
The last thing that will make a difference is Home Field Advantage, so everyone throw on the Orange and Black, and be at Paul Brown Stadium to support our Cincinnati Bengals.