Why the Cincinnati Bengals Could Go 8-0 in 2011
Now, I know what you're thinking, the very prospect of the Bengals going 8-0 with a rookie QB is about as likely as Curtis Painter winning a Super Bowl MVP award.
But, stranger things have occurred, and the one thing that remains consistent about the NFL, year in and year out, is that anything can happen. Anything except the Bengals winning the Super Bowl you might say, but that's not what I'm suggesting.
What I am saying is that there are a number of justifiable reasons to believe that the Cincinnati Bengals could potentially go 8-0, even if they do go on to finish 8-8.
Following a fairly convincing display in Cleveland on Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals find themselves with what various reports have called an unexpected 1-0 record.
Their next seven games begin with a trip to Mile High stadium on Sunday, to face the bruised and battered Denver Broncos, fresh off their Monday Night Football loss to Oakland. The Broncos could potentially be without Champ Bailey, Knowshon Moreno, Brandon Lloyd and Elvis Dumervil when Cincinnati come to town, and with Kyle Orton struggling through Monday night's game, the Bengals will be looking to capitalize.
The Bengals then spend the next two weeks in Paul Brown Stadium, first hosting the San Francisco 49ers and then the Buffalo Bills. Barring more heroics from Ted Ginn Jr., the Bengals could be too much for San Francisco to handle.
With three former 49ers joining the Bengals ranks, complete with chips on their shoulders, you can expect the defense to have a big day. The 49ers did finish sixth against the run last year, so Andy Dalton may have to be relied on that little bit more than in previous weeks, but with Alex Smith particularly unproductive inside the red zone, this could be a battle of field goals.
So, for the sake of argument, let's assume the Bengals are 3-0 at this point.
If they don't become complacent, as the Bengals are known to do following big wins, their next three opponents; Buffalo, Jacksonville and Indianapolis, finished last, 22nd and 25th, respectively, against the run last year.
It certainly bodes well for Cedric Benson and the running game, and, with Peyton Manning on the sidelines and David Garrard bowing out in Jacksonville, these three games could all be close contests. The Bills could well be the stumbling block, having topped the Bengals 49-31 in 2010, with a particularly strong performance from former Bengal Ryan Fitzpatrick. Buffalo were red hot in Week 1, stomping a mud-hole in Kansas City, and they could well do the same to the Bengals. If Cincy come out with a win, it will very much rest on the shoulders of Benson.
Next on the menu, are trips to Seattle and Tennessee.
With the Seahawks making some bizarre decisions in the offseason, and struggling against the 49ers in Week 1, on paper, they are one of the Bengals weakest opponents this year.
Tennessee, however, do pose a significant challenge in the form of Chris Johnson, but with the Bengals holding Peyton Hillis to 57-yards in Week 1, and Jacksonville only allowing CJ2K 24-yards, a win would be attainable. Matt Hasselbeck has a fairly strong offensive line in front of him, but his accuracy dips significantly when he feels pressure, and the Bengals talented pass rushers will be gunning to expose that.
Now, these may be the hopeful ramblings of a 'Bengals homer', and I understand that anything can happen in NFL, and you could probably justify the Bengals going 1-7 in a similar fashion to what I have just produced, but the point I have tried to make is that the Bengals have a significant capability of being in with a chance of winning all of their first eight games, whether they do so or not.
In 2009, the Bengals topped the AFC North based on a Cedric Benson-centric offense and a rock-solid defense, with Carson Palmer not being relied on too heavily. While it would be outlandish to think Andy Dalton can come through as Palmer did on occasion in 2009 against the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore, there's no reason to believe he can't knock off the likes of Seattle, Denver etc.
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