The Cincinnati Bengals will be heading into the 2015 season looking to put yet another dismal playoff showing behind them. Cincinnati finished 2nd in the AFC North with an overall record of 10-5-1, earning them the top Wild Card spot in the AFC, but would lose 10-26 on the road to the Indianapolis Colts in opening round.

That’s now 4 straight playoff appearances where the Bengals have lost their first game and each has been largely due to the offense showing up. In those 4 defeats, Cincinnati’s has scored exactly 10 points 3 separate times and their high-mark was 13.

While the postseason woes are the focal point of conversation, the Bengals continue to deliver in the regular season. In the last 4 years they have gone an impressive 40-24 and have won at least 10 games in each of the last 3 years. Cincinnati is clearly in the mix with the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North title.

Last Season
AFC North
Record
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Over/Under
2nd
10-5-1
8-7-1
4-3-1
4-4
6-10
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
15th
22nd
0
22.8
21.5
2015 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
Cedric Ogbuehi (OT), Jake Fisher (OT), Tyler Kroft (TE), Paul Dawson (ILB), Josh Shaw (CB), Marcus Hardison (DE), C.J. Uzomah (TE), Derron Smith (FS), Mario Alford (WR)
Additions
Michael Johnson (DE), Denarius Moore (WR), A.J. Hawk (ILB), Pat Sims (DT), Josh Johnson (QB), Brandon Ghee (SS)
Losses
Jermaine Gresham (TE), Terence Newman (CB), Taylor Mays (FS), Robert Geathers (DE), Marshall Newhouse (OT), Dane Sanzenbacher (WR), Alex Smith (TE), Jason Campbell (QB), L.J. Fort (LB), Greg Little (WR), Mike Nugent (K)
2015 Schedule & Odds
Week Opponent Spread Win Chance
1 @ Raiders -3.5 0.64
2 Chargers -3 0.59
3 @ Ravens +3 0.41
4 Chiefs -3 0.59
5 Seahawks +2 0.47
6 @ Bills +1 0.49
7 BYE
8 @ Steelers +3 0.41
9 Browns -6 0.71
10 Texans -4 0.66
11 @ Cardinals +3 0.41
12 Rams -2.5 0.55
13 @ Browns -2 0.53
14 Steelers -1 0.51
15 @ 49ers +3 0.41
16 @ Broncos +4.5 0.33
17 Ravens -2 0.53
Estimated Wins: 8.24
Roster Breakdown

Last year the Bengals used one of the leagues best rushing attacks (134.2 ypg, 6th) to finish 15th in both total offense (348.0 ypg) and scoring (22.8 ppg). When you can run the ball as effective as Cincinnati was able to and only score 10-points in a playoff game, the blame falls directly on the quarterback. For this team to take that next step, Andy Dalton must get better.

In the Bengals 4 playoff losses, Dalton has thrown 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions, while averaging a mere 5.53 yards/completion. It’s not just the postseason where Dalton struggles, he’s consistently underperformed in the spotlight of big games. You have to wonder if he will ever turn the corner, as it’s looking more and more like the Bengals have wasted a deep and talented roster with an average quarterback.

To Dalton’s credit, he didn’t have much of a chance of succeeding in the playoff game. The Bengals were without elite wide out A.J. Green or starting tight end Jermaine Greshman. Not to mention Marvin Jones, 2013’s second leading receiver (712 yards, 10 TDs), never played a snap in 2014.

Things could be a lot better in 2015, as Jones should be back in the mix with Green and emerging 4th-year wide out Mohamed Sanu, who stepped up in Jones’ absence with 56 catches for 790 yards and 5 scores. Greshman was let go in free agency, opening up the door for 2013’s 1st round pick in tight end Tyler Eifert to show what he’s made of. Eifert was expected to play a big role last year, but was lost for the season in Week 1 to a dislocated elbow.

Dalton also figures to benefit from opposing defenses having to pay extra attention to the run, as the Bengals have reason to believe they will be even stronger on the ground in 2015. That’s because, leading rusher Jeremy Hill didn’t take over as the starter until Week 15. In those final 3 starts, he hit the 100 mark in each contest and totaled 395 overall. In the 5 games in which Hill received at least 20 carries, he had an impressive 701 yards (140.2 ypg).

Cincinnati also remains strong up front on the offensive line, where all 5 starters are back from last year. The only weakness in the trenches on this side of the ball in 2014, was rookie center Russell Bodine. If he can make the big jump from year 1 to year 2, this unit just got a whole lot better. The Bengals also secured the future of the o-line, by selecting tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher with their first two picks in the draft.

Defensively the Bengals weren’t near as good in 2014 as they had been the previous year. Cincinnati went from finishing 3rd in total defense (305.5 ypg) and T-5th in scoring defense (19.1 ppg) in 2013 to ranking a mere 22nd in total defense (359.3 ypg) and 12th in scoring (21.5 ppg). That decline was a direct result of losing defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

Whether or not the Bengals can return to an elite defense without Zimmer at the controls is tough to say, but improvements will need to be made in year two under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. The one thing that could spark a turnaround on this side of the ball is defensive tackle Geno Atkins returning to his All-Pro form. Atkins wasn’t close to the same player in 2014 coming off that ACL tear in 2013. He did show some flashes of his old self, so there’s reason to be optimistic that he will be much better in 2015.

Atkins is one of those rare special talents, when at full strength, that makes everyone else around him better. If he gets back to dominating, that’s going to lead to a much better season out of fellow defensive tackle Domata Peko. It will also improve the pass rush. Carlos Dunlap led the team with a mere 8 sacks and the Bengals recorded just 20 as a team (dead last). Cincinnati brought back Michael Johnson to team with Dunlap, allowing Wallace Gilberry to move back to his specialist role. They are also hoping for a breakout season from Margus Hunt.

At linebacker, the big question is when will Vontaze Burfict be able to play and will he be the same player coming off microscopic knee surgery. Vincent Rey is a quality backup, but doesn’t impact the game the same way as Burfict. Veteran A.J. Hawk was added in free agency to help out and serve as the primary backup to Ray Maualuga in the middle, while Emmanuel Lamur returns at the other starting outside spot.

The secondary parted ways with starting corner Terrance Newman, but the rest of the unit returns in tact. Veteran corners Leon Hall and Adam Jones will be fighting to hold off youngsters Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard. At safety, the Bengals have one of the most underrated duos in the NFL in Reggie Nelson and George Iloka.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the AFC
to Win Super Bowl L
8.5
33 to 2
42 to 1
Odds Courtesty of 5Dimes
Projections

Due to the fact that all everyone seems to focus on is the struggles in the playoffs, I think the Bengals aren’t getting near the respect they deserve going into the 2015 campaign. Cincinnati has done an excellent job of stockpiling talent in the draft, giving them one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. If Atkins returns to form, they are going to be extremely strong in the trenches on both sides of the ball and Dalton’s inefficiencies will be covered up by a potentially elite rushing attack.

The only problem for Cincinnati is they play in a division with two equally strong teams in the Steelers and Ravens. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this team won the AFC North, but I have that honor going to Baltimore, who has done an equally impressive job with their roster and have a much better quarterback guiding their team in Joe Flacco. I do have the Bengals going a very respectable 10-6, which puts them well over their win total of 8.5.

AFC North Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
2nd
4-2
10-6
OVER 8.5
Bengals 10-Year Recap
Year W L Playoffs Coach Win Total
2014 10 5 Lost WC Lewis 9
2013 11 5 Lost WC Lewis 8.5
2012 10 6 Lost WC Lewis 8
2011 9 7 Lost WC Lewis 5.5
2010 4 12 Lewis 8
2009 10 6 Lost WC Lewis 7
2008 4 11 Lewis 7
2007 7 9 Lewis 9
2006 8 8 Lewis 9
2005 11 5 Lost WC Lewis 8

Connor Howe

Connor Howe
StripeHype.com

OVER 8.5 Wins – Cincinnati somehow made the playoffs in 2014 despite a depleted roster and an two new coordinators. Now, the Bengals boast a running back duo that could be the league’s best, a healthy A.J. Green and an improved defense. Cincy has depth at every position and a young roster full of players who are about to hit their prime. 2015 could be the year for the Bengals, and after a huge primetime win against the Broncos in Week 16 of the 2014 season, Cincinnati could finally establish itself as a true contender. The Bengals, a solid home team, should easily win nine games–they’ve done so in every year of Andy Dalton’s career–and could win as many as 11 games if they can get the job done on the road and in primetime.

 

AlexAlex Peterman Peterman
CincyJungle.com

OVER 8.5 Wins – When it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals, I typically trend towards the under – but not in this case. A large reason the Bengals are projected to go 8-8 is the fact that the team has the 2nd toughest strength of schedule in the league. However, it’s important to note that the Bengals managed a 10-6 record in 2014, despite their season being riddled with injuries on both sides of the ball. Barring an unexpected breakthrough by Andy Dalton, this team isn’t quite an AFC contender. If healthy, it’s reasonable to expect a record between 9-7 and 11-5, though I lean toward predicting the lower end of that spectrum. Either way, it beats 8-8. For betters comfortable without an excess of breathing room, take the over. There are certainly riskier bets available than this one.

Matt Wilson

Matthew Wilson
StripeHype.com

OVER 8.5 Wins – The Cincinnati Bengals should be at 10-6 at the end of the season. The difficult schedule could be against me on this, but the Bengals have proven that, when healthy, they can play with any team. Here is why:

#1: Bengals Defense is going to improve with guys returning and incoming player performing. Michael Johnson is coming back and played a huge part in their 2013 defensive success with 12.5 sacks before heading to Tampa Bay for only a year. A.J. Hawk is a key veteran who is motivated by both being cut by the Green Bay Packers and returning home to Ohio. Vontaze Burfict will return and should be stronger and in a better position to return to his 2013 form, and don’t forget either that Geno Atkins has had his best camp in over two years. The corners have been outstanding with Adam Jones looking his sharpest yet in Cincinnati. Reggie Nelson and George Iloka have been a key to last season’s bend but not break play, which beat both Joe Flacco’s Ravens offense and Peyton Manning’s Broncos.

#2: They have lost their number four receiver before the pre-season but A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu are all in contract years and will be playing for their future. They are all motivated to come back faster, stronger, and crisper in their execution. They will be a huge key to this offense. The deadly backfield duo is another aspect to this offense. There is arguable no better running back duo in the NFL than Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. On their own they are both really good, but the versatility of both push them above and beyond what teams can expect to cover. Through that in with one of the biggest fullbacks in the league, with Domata Peko on goal line situations, these guys are primed for a big year.

#3: Finally, the offensive line. They had one of the best o-lines last season and protected Dalton in key games against the Broncos and Ravens. The line is still intact and with the weak link being Clint Boling, they have flexibilty with Jake Fisher in his first year, if Boling can’t go and they need to swing Whitworth inside. This offensive line should be a key in both the running and passing game successes.If Andrew Whitworth can have another Pro-Bowl caliber season, they will be in great shape to make their run at a fifth straight playoff appearance and first playoff in 25 years.

The AFC North has always been a big defense first division, but the tides may be turning to offense with the Steelers and Bengals offensive potential being the strongest in years. I can’t wait for this season to begin.

Rebecca Toback

Rebecca Toback
CincyJungle.com

OVER 8.5 Wins – The Bengals are entering their second year under offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. In the first year in Jackson’s offense, a number of key players were injured. Tight end Tyler Eifert missed all of the season minus one quarter. The Bengal’s star wide receiver, A.J. Green missed three full games due to injury and parts of others. And the team’s #2 WR, Marvin Jones also missed the entire season. When you’re missing that many key pieces to your offense, it’s hard to excel.

If the Bengals can stay healthy this season, their offense is loaded with talent and their defense speaks for itself. After a bad 2014 season that saw Vontaze Burfict miss most of the year and during which Geno Atkins was coming back from ACL surgery in 2013, the defense struggled to keep up. This year with Michael Johnson back after a brief trip to Tampa Bay, and Geno Atkins being referred to as “the best player on the field” in training camp, the Bengals’ defense should return to their dominant ways and have a standout 2015 season. Plus, the young cornerbacks (and the old too, in Adam Jones who it’s hard to believe is 31) promise to excel and prove to opposing offenses why the Bengals’ defense should be feared.

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