Cincinnati has much to hope for in 2010 —and just as much to dread. Predictions spring from every section of the spectrum from if the Bengals will even contend for the AFC North championship to the franchise eying is on the NFL championship.
The following is a quick and dirty assessment of the Bengals schedule, contributing intangible factors, and likely odds for the Bengals season.
Note that there will be no specific predictions as to which player will throw, run, catch, or do a cartwheel —as many prior predicting articles like to imagine.
Any given Sunday, anything can happen.
Week One: at New England Patriots
For some unknown reason, Marvin Lewis has not had much success against Bill Belichick, but there are other reasons to wonder if this game could go either way.
Considering that Wes Welker will still be unable to play and that Brady's offensive line is losing some of it's luster, along with the Bengals' defensive upgrades (with emphasis on the pass rush) this early season game could be the breakthrough the Bengals' will most certainly desire to create needed momentum.
Bengals' Chances of Winning: 40 percent
Week Two: Baltimore Ravens
The AFC North is a three team circus —Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh —but the real battle this year will be between the Ravens and the Bengals.
It is highly unlikely that the Bengals will run the table in the division this year, and that will be primarily be because of the Ravens. While the Ravens will be formidable, this will be a series where the home team squeezes out a tough but well earned victory.
The Bengals defense will be ready for both the run and pass, but where this game will be won will be on offense and even with the Ravens’ defensive additions, the Bengals pass attack will need to emerge this week.
This game will tell us a lot about where Carson Palmer really is, and if he still has the skill and mental fortitude to re-claim his elite quarterback status.
Bengals' Chances of Winning: 60 percent
Week Three: at Carolina Panthers
It is hard to tell what the Panthers will do in 2010, but one thing is likely, and that is they will likely have a losing record.
Without a strong veteran quarterback and clearly showing that they are in rebuilding mode, the young Panthers do not have much of a chance in Week Three.
Nevertheless, I am a strong believer in home field advantage as well as the mysterious momentum of early season optimism —which helps home teams as well as unpredictable teams thrive. The Bengals will should win this game, but it may or may not be easy depending on how the Panther’s quarterback plays.
Bengals' Chances of Winning: 70 percent
Week Four: at Cleveland Browns
The Browns are going to be good —within the next two to four years.
The coming year is a rebuilding year in the Mike Holmgren era, and the Browns will continue to struggle but with purpose. The Bengals nearly blew this game in Cleveland last year, but this was again in reference to the passing game’s issues.
Regardless, the Bengals should be more convincing in at Cleveland in 2010.
Bengals' Chances of Winning: 80 percent
Week Five: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What I love about this game is how it reminds me of the Cedric Benson game against Chicago last season. For Antonio Bryant, there is not the animosity as much as the one as the desire to simply show up a former franchise, which clearly did not compliment this talented player’s skill set.
It may be only one piece of a giant team puzzle which still must gel, but Tampa will not pose much of a threat —with or without a subplot.
Bengals' Chances of Winning: 90 percent
Week Six: Bye Week
This will be an extremely important bye week —as any is for any team —as the Bengals will need to regroup for the final run.
Do not underestimate the Bengals’ fortune in getting this week at this point in the season. Assuming the Bengals come into the bye at 4-1, there will be a lot more angst coming down the road and being prepared beforehand will be the theme of this bye.
Week Seven: at Atlanta Falcons
This will be a hard fought NFC vs. AFC battle and could go either way. The Bengals are the more experienced and versatile team though and even on the road, the Bengals should win this one.
Bengals' Chances of Winning: 60 percent
Week Eight: Miami Dolphins
If this game was in Miami, the Bengals would lose —this is where I agree with the consensus.
At home, the Dolphins win, on the road —they will lose to Cincinnati.
Bill Parcells has made the Dolphins formidable, and there is an outside chance that Miami could make the playoffs as a wild card. But coming off of a home game against Pittsburgh preceded by a visit to Green Bay, the Dolphins will be too beat up at this point to stand in the way.
Bengals' Chances of Winning: 75 percent
Week Nine : Pittsburgh Steelers
Assuming the Bengals have minimal expected injuries at this point in the season, this game should not only be a Bengals victory —but a blow out.
Regardless of if Big Ben has been back for one or three weeks, the Steelers are not going to be as strong as they should be next season.
When your franchise quarterback isn’t up to par —be it for lack of passing options (2009 Carson Palmer) or even more disconcerting character issues (Big Ben) —the entire franchise suffers.
Regardless of professionalism, the Steelers’ season in 2010 is going to be one of the all-time mysteries of the 2010 season. This game will have no mystery —the Steelers will lose on paper and more likely on character.
Bengals' Chances of Winning: 85 percent