Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the rear view mirror and off-season moves have been made, the Cincinnati Bengals could make some noise in the AFC North this fall.
They picked up a handful of players who have more than a handful of promise. They will have OC Bill Lazor running the show on offense and he will go into the year having a full offseason to prepare and install his offense this time. He’s a guy who, let’s face it, would win every “Bitchin-est Name” contest if those things existed.
Those things, combined with a couple of very winnable early-season games and the fact that we play in the same division as the Cleveland Browns, means the playoffs could be within reach this year.
Here’s a game-by-game pick of how I think the Cincinnati Bengals’ 2018 season will go.
Cincinnati Bengals Game-by-Game Picks
Week 1 @ Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck has been out of action since being placed on injured reserve last November. The Colts’ 4-12 record shows how important he is to the team. A rusty shoulder combined with a long layoff leads one to think Cincy will start the season 1-0. Put me down as that one. 1-0
Week 2 vs Baltimore Ravens
Of all the picks, this is the one that has me running in slow-mo through a wheat field with my arms open. Cincinnati beat the Ravens 31-27 to end 2017. An early season win here means a one-game lead against a division contender. It also means momentum. That could be the difference between the playoffs or not. 2-0
Week 3 @ Carolina Panthers
The Carolina offense was very un-Cam Newton like in 2017. They were 28th in the league in passing offense. Fortunately, their rushing D only gave up 88 yards a game, and the team rode that stat to a 5th-seed playoff berth. Given the Cincinnati Bengals’s shaky ground game the last few years, we think the Panthers take this one. 2-1
Week 4 @ Atlanta Falcons
The last time there was an air attack this scary, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was in theaters. It starts with the 150 Million Dollar Man Matt Ryan and continues with Pro Bowler Julio Jones, 67-catch Mohamed Sanu and first-rounder Calvin Ridley. Sad to say, it looks like the Bengals won’t be able to keep up. 2-2.
Week 5 vs Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins either won small or lost big last year. Five of their fix wins were by one possession or less. Six of their 10 losses were by 14 points or more. They have a new weapon this year in Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki, but a non-quarterback expected to generate an extra two TDs per game is a tall order. Miami won’t be able to generate enough points to keep up with Dalton and Co. 3-2
Week 6 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
There, we said the name … blood boiling yet? If it weren’t for Le’veon Bell’s two-hand touch TD last year, the Bengals could have snapped their losing streak against the Steelers, which now stands at six. As much as we hate to say it, the Bengals will continue to play catch-up in this rivalry. We won’t pick ’em until they beat Pittsburgh. 3-3
Week 7 @ Kansas City Chiefs
KC took the AFC West last year, and lost to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card by one point. They’ve had the whole off-season to stew on what might have been. That, plus home-field advantage, is enough to convince me. 3-4
Week 8 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers should’ve been called the Butt-aneers, what with their tail-end finishing in total defense in 2017. They allowed 378 yards per game and collected a paltry 22 sacks. The Bengals may not roll in this one, but they won’t lose. 4-4
Week 9 vs New Orleans Saints
Besides Pittsburgh, this is arguably our toughest opponent. QB Drew Brees is still churning out Pro-Bowl caliber stats. The defense, while middle of the road, doesn’t need to be special with the offense generating 391 yards a game. Will Cincinnati win? (shake magic 8 ball) Don’t count on it. 4-5
Week 10 @ Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens will have had time to gel by this point. I’m not feeling a second win for some reason. Don’t ask, just a hunch. 4-6
Week 11 vs Cleveland Browns
Week 12 vs Denver Broncos
Denver averaged just over two sacks a game in 2017, so they hope to shore up their pass rush with, among other players, first-round draft pick DE Bradley Chubb. He’ll have had some time to get his feet underneath him by Week 12, but he will need more than that. The Cincy O-line will hold up against the blitz, and the team will win. 6-6
Week 13 @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers possess the most lethal air attack since Alfred Hitchc …… oh, wait. You already heard that one. So you already know our prediction here. 6-7
Week 14 vs Oakland Raiders
The Oakland/Las Vegas Raid-uhs haven’t been that special since 2002, with only one playoff appearance since then. Jon Gruden’s return will pay dividends long-term, but in the meantime, the Bengals take this one. 7-7
Week 15 @ Cleveland Browns
Week 16 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
See my previous point about the team from up northeast.
Final record: 8-8. If we can get the wins against divisional opponents, then I say we got a shot at the postseason.