Ochocinco and T.O. will be smiling in 2010.
Carson Palmer completed just two passes and the Bengals offense looked ill-prepared against the Dallas Cowboys. Then again, it was just the first preseason game of August, and this team has almost an entire month to prepare for a brutal division and tough NFL schedule.
But it's not just about the trenches, wins, and losses. For some, the fantasy football aspect is more important than anything else. And concerning that, NFL Soup takes a close look at the 2010 Cincinnati Bengals, and comes up with five bold predictions for the upcoming fantasy football season:
1. Cedric Benson Won't Be a One-Hit Wonder
Everyone thought his 2008 end-of-the-year stretch of solid numbers was a joke, but Benson got the last laugh in 2009, as he even carved up his former team (Chicago Bears), while helping Cincy to the division title.
Benson isn't particularly fast or explosive, but he runs hard and still has a chip on his shoulder. If he can stay fully healthy, he should be in line for his best season as a pro, especially with added offensive additions that should help the offense become more balanced and less predictable.
2. Carson Palmer Finds the Long Ball Again
Palmer didn't go deep down the field much in 2009, and while much of that had to do with the Bengals' offensive approach, it also had a lot to do with a lack of elite receiving weapons to work with. Of course, there's the theory that his arm wasn't fully 100 percent, either.
With Terrell Owens in town and rookie Jordan Shipley showing some spunk in the slot, Palmer suddenly has a slew of athletic weapons to use. If rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham can provide the type of impact Cincy was hoping for when they drafted him, Palmer could really take off.
Either way, the addition of Owens should free up Chad Ochocinco and make both players legitimate deep threats. That is, if everything goes according to plan.
3. Matt Jones Makes the Team
What is with all this negative talk about Matt Jones? He might not be the most explosive guy anymore, but there's no knocking his hands and route-running these days. He can still make plays, too.
Antonio Bryant not being at full health could go a long way to helping Jones stick on the final roster, but we're actually banking on Jones continuing to work hard and prove his doubters wrong. After all, if you can't turn your career around in Cincinnati, where can you?
4. T.O. and Ocho Will Both Top 1,000 Yards
For those who say the 2009 season was evidence that Terrell Owens is showing his age or losing any skills, they simply aren't looking closely enough.
Owens still has the inconsistent route-running and hands that he always has, but along with those issues, he still has the strength, speed, and explosiveness.
Owens was in a disastrous situation in Buffalo from day one, and will be walking into 2010 with a better quarterback, a better offensive line, better coaching, and better receiving talent around him.
On the other hand, Ochocinco finally has a capable receiver opposite of him again, as well as a quarterback who has fantasy stardom potential.
As you may recall, number 85 has spent much of the past two seasons either catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick, or watching Laveranues Coles crumble under expectations.
Look for "Batman and Robin" to feed off of each other, make Palmer look better than he actually probably is, and kill it with two 1,000-yard seasons. Because let's be honest, these two wouldn't have it any other way.
5. Jordan Shipley Will Man the Slot and Return Punts/Kicks
Sorry, Bengals fans, but we already predicted the Pittsburgh Steelers would win the division (although that has nothing to do with fantasy football). However, there's still room for some rookie love (or hope?).
Shipley has already displayed great return ability and solid shiftiness and route-running in the slot. While Andre Caldwell was solid in the slot last year, he's not the receiver or slot demon Shipley is (already), and he also faded down the stretch in 2009.
Look for Shipley to carve out a very nice role with Ochocinco and T.O. helping him out, while also making an impact in both facets of the return game.