The NFL season started with a bang from Heinz Field: a firework display. It ended al mismo, the same. It took an overtime period to complete a fantastic start to the 2009 National Football League Season.
Two teams down; 30 more to go for week one.
But what team has the most to lose this season? What failure of a franchise must redeem itself this season with such high expectations?
And no, it is not the Philadelphia Eagles and the "Michael Vick Saga."
Second-guess? Need some help? Yes, it's the Cincinnati Bengals.
Quarterback and leader Carson Palmer missed much of the season due to a “shoulder” and superstar sensation Chad Johnson (not officially Ocho Cinco) had his worst statistical year of his career.
To make matters worse for the “Hard Knocks” franchise, they lost starting wide out TJ Houshmandzadeh and tackle Stacy Andrews to free agency.
But there is good news: they resigned Cedric Benson. Not sure if the boat or DUIs will follow.
Oh, and Chad Ocho Cinco pledged a 12-4 season and more yards in the first four games than all of last year. Get your Hall of Fame jackets ready.
Coach Marvin Lewis returns for his seventh season with the team. Until last year, no defense under the former defensive coordinator has ranked above 20. Last year the team ranked 19 in total points and 12 in total yards.
But this year could change with the signing of strong safety Roy Williams and rookie freak defensive end Rey Maualuga. It might be the year that they finally crack the teens with defensive stats under Coach Lewis.
Quarterback Carson Palmer returns from another injury, this time to his shoulder. His production has always been high and if he can stay off the injury reserve list, he can once again become a top-five quarterback and pro bowler.
He only played four games last season because of the partially torn ligament. If he returns to his MVP form of 2005, Pro Bowl years of 2005-06, and a pretty good 2007 campaign where he threw for 4,131 yards and a Rating of 86.7, then this team can be a force to be reckoned with in the AFC North.
His primary weapon will be Ocho Cinco, who should return to form after a down year that came because of injuries and lack-of quarterback.
Last week on First Take, he debated Skip Bayless in the team’s locker room. 8-5 promised the Bengal faithful that they won’t be disappointed this year. He looked at the audience watching the show and said: “We will go 12-4 this year.”
What!? Are you serious Sir Linguistically Challenged?
“We will go 12-4 this year,” said Ocho Cinco, later exclaiming his poor performance from a season ago and saying his numbers will return to form this year.
The team looked better in the preseason, but that means nothing. That’s like Penn State looking good by beating down on Akron (which they did and looked good).
The defensive should improve and the offense will produce. The former Johnson, who also said “I am whatever I want to be [at the time],” made a bold statement and guarantee with his prediction.
If the Bengals are going to return to the playoffs for the first time since January 8th, 2006—where Kimo von Oelhoffen ruined a Super Bowl readied team—then four “musts” need to be fulfilled:
1. Carson Palmer throws for 4,000+ yards and has a Quarterback Rating over 95.0.
2. Chad Ocho Cinco must have at least his 2007 numbers: 93 receptions 1,440 yards 8 touchdowns.
3. The running game needs to be affective to take pressure off of Palmer’s arm. Benson has to have more than 1,000 yards with a 4.0 or better yards/attempt.
4. The defense needs to continue its ascendancy to the top of the NFL ranks. It ranked 19 in the league for total points and 12 in total yards. It needs to be better than mediocre, especially playing in a division with two of the top defenses. With Williams and Maualuga, the defense should be a little better, or at least compete in games.
These are tall orders, but IF they happen, the team will make the playoffs. That is my guarantee Ocho Cinco; follow up your end of the deal.
2009 Cincinnati Bengal season: 9-7, playoff appearance.