Winning only seven games isn't something that should be expected from a team with as much talent as the Bengals. The problem is that all of their talent is on the offensive side of the ball.
That's bad news for Bengals fans, but it is good news for fantasy football fans. They have an explosive offense with arguably the best receiving tandem in the NFL when "ocho-cinco" isn't being "ocho-stinko".
They have revamped their defensive front seven and are looking to turn around a declining franchise before it falls too far. So how does that affect their fantasy value?
Palmer has done a great job of staying healthy over the past three years, and has put up solid fantasy numbers each of those years. There is a trend to his success though, in each of the last three years he has thrown for more yards than the previous year, but fewer touchdowns. That trend will more than likely continue this season.
Palmer completes a high percentage of his passes and is a smart passer despite leading the league in interceptions (20) last season. Don't put too much stock in that though since it was the only time he has thrown over 15 interceptions since his rookie season
The defense is notorious for their bad pass coverage, which will lead to high scoring games where Palmer rakes in the fantasy points (i.e. September 16, 2007 @ Cleveland)
Rudi Johnson/Kenny Watson
Odds are that the Bengals' running game will be overlooked by opposing defenses in favor of defending against the pass. It could also be overlooked because neither backs performed up to starting running back standards last year. Injuries held back Johnson, and Watson doesn't have enough speed. As a tandem however, they can be solid.
If Johnson can bounce back to his 2005 or 2006 self, he will be a steal in the draft. It is more probable however that he will split time with Watson and be a solid No.3 fantasy back. He is better in short yardage situations than Watson is, which will most likely lead to more goal line carries and touchdowns.
Watson fits the role of a third down back relatively well due to his reliable hands. On the other hand, he struggled with third down running situations last season. If he improves on that, or Rudi gets hurt, his fantasy value will increase. As it stands, he can be considered a No. 4 or No. 5 fantasy back.
Chad Johnson/T.J. Houshmandzadeh/Ben Utecht
Johnson and Housh are a tremendous "1-2 punch". Johnson is the deep threat while T.J. is a great possession receiver. That isn't to say that each one couldn't do the other, but it is what they are best at.
Johnson typically gains more yards than Housh, but brings in less touchdowns. As a result Chad has less fantasy value. His lingering ankle injury could reduce his value further, but probably not much if at all. I would consider him one of the best No.2 receivers in fantasy football, but if he won't put up top ten fantasy receiver points.
Housh on the other hand, will put up top ten fantasy receiver points. He seems to have developed a good reputation with Palmer and has very reliable hands. He is also in a contract year, and will be playing for a big time deal.
With defenses focusing on those two, who do you think will get the looks when they are double covered? Utecht is tall (6'6") and proved he can be an effective receiver with the Colts. He is a No. 2 fantasy tight end right now, but he has a ton of upside. If you have room on your roster in the last few rounds, he might end up being a steal.
You will be hard pressed to find a kicker who has preformed so consistently at such a high level of play. He isn't know for having a strong leg, but he is accurate and will get plenty of opportunities this season like he always does. He is definitely one of the top three kickers and should be drafted as such.
The Bengals defense was one of the worst in the league last year, which prompted the team to improve their front seven. Their biggest additions were defensive ends Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers who were each tied for third in the league with 19 quarterback hurries last year.
Too bad that Odom was injured in the team's first practice. The details of the injury haven't been revealed yet.
Their secondary has been very weak in coverage, but young starting corners Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph are looking to improve on their horrible 2007 season. The best thing you can say about the secondary is that SS Dexter Jackson still blitzes well, just don't expect him to defend the pass.
Rookie linebacker Keith Rivers could make an impact once he is signed. He is a great pass rusher and will help create pressure on the quarterback, which will help their below average secondary.
Their return game could surprise some people. Glenn Holt emerged as their main return man last year and took a kick return 100 yards for six points, his only of the year. He also gained more return yards (1432) than Devin Hester (934) on kick-offs, and had a higher yards per kick-off return average (24.27 compared to Hester's 21.72).
Even if he repeats that performance, it won't be enough to put the Bengals defense on the fantasy map.
Top Five Cincinnati Bengals Fantasy Players
1. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
2. Chad Johnson
3. Carson Palmer
4. Rudi Johnson
5. Shayne Graham
Bye Week: 5