When the Cincinnati Bengals finished 12-4 and won the AFC North title in 2015, it extended a streak of 5 straight playoff appearances (lost all 5). It also marked the fourth straight season they won at least 10 games.
Despite the playoff struggles, it looked like the Bengals were going to be a threat in the AFC in 2016. That wasn’t the case. Cincinnati has missed the postseason each of the last two years. They went just 7-9 last season after a 6-9-1 finish in 2016.
This felt like the ideal time for the Bengals to part ways with long-time head coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals decided it wasn’t. Lewis will be back for his 16th season. So will veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, who has been under scrutiny since he was drafted back in 2011.
Cincinnati didn’t go out and sign a ton of free agents. In fact, there were just 3 significant additions in free agency. The biggest was linebacker Preston Brown, who led Buffalo with 144 tackles last year. They also depth on the d-line with Chris Baker and brought in Matt Barlkey to compete for a backup role.
The Bengals biggest addition came via a trade, as they acquired one of the top left tackles in the game in Cordy Glenn from the Bills.
Some notable players that won’t be back for the 2018 campaign include Adam Jones (CB), A.J. McCarron (QB), Chris Smith (DT), Andre Smith (G), Russell Bodine (C), Jermey Hill (RB) and Kevin Minter (LB).
Cincinnati used their first round pick on Ohio State center Billy Price. They then loaded up on defense, using 6 of their next 7 picks (rounds 2-5) on that side of the ball. The only exception being Miami running back Mark Walton.
The decision to not blow this thing up and keep the core in tact, tells me this team believes it has the pieces to make the playoffs. It won’t be easy in a much tougher AFC than years past, but it’s also not out of the question.
2018 Bengals Schedule & Projected Odds
These are the early odds that were released by Vegas. Note that the official lines are only for Weeks 1-16. I went ahead and projected what I feel the line will be for Week 17.
Projected Wins: 6.54
Over/Under Wins Prediction: OVER 6.5
I actually think there’s some decent value here with the Bengals to go OVER their total of 6.5 wins. Cincinnati won 7 games last year with one of the worst offenses in the NFL. The Bengals were 26th in scoring at 18.1 ppg and dead last in total yards at 280.5 ypg. They had the 27th ranked passing attack and 31st ranked rushing attack.
I believe poor offensive line play was a big culprit to their problems. Which is why I think the trade for Glenn and first round selection Billy Price were big time moves for this team. There’s a good chance the Bengals just upgraded the two most important positions on the offensive line (left tackle, center).
There’s also reason to be optimistic that Dalton will have some more weapons to work with in the passing game. Cincinnati got nothing out of rookie wide out John Ross, who they took No. 9 overall. Tight end Tyler Eifert also had just 4 catches for 46 yards. There’s reason to be more excited about Ross, as Eifert is a bit of a wild card with his injury history.
Defensively the Bengals weren’t anything special, finishing near the middle of the pack in both points allowed (16th) and total yards (18th). While most of the key pieces are back, the unit will have a new look under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who replaces Paul Guenther (DC at Oakland). Austin has spent the last 4 years holding the same job with the Lions.
I think there’s every reason to think that given the talent the Bengals can at least put up similar numbers on this side of the ball. You have to remember that this unit was on the field constantly last year with how anemic the offense was. If the offense improves, you have to think it can only help the defensive side of the ball.
Odds to Win the Super Bowl: +10000
All you have to do is look at the Bengals Super Bowl odds to see just how little respect this team is getting. Only the Dolphins (+15000) and Jets (+20000) have worse odds to win it all (tied with Bears). The Browns (+9000) for crying out loud have better odds to win the Super Bowl.
If you are someone who likes playing long shots, there’s definitely some value here with Cincinnati. With that said, it’s highly unlikely that they are playing on the final Sunday of the season. Just because there’s value, doesn’t mean it’s a good bet. You also can’t ignore the postseason struggles of the Bengals under Lewis.
Odds to Win the AFC: +3000
Similar story here with there being value on the Bengals to win the AFC. It’s not out of the question that this team could make the postseason and go on a run. At the same time, it’s hard to trust a team to win at least two, maybe 3, games when they haven’t won a single playoff game since 1990.
Odds to Win the AFC North: +1000
I would be a lot more willing to throw a little something on Cincinnati to win the division, something they have done twice in the last 5 years. In terms of value, there’s plenty to be had with this prop.
The Bengals are tied with the Browns for the worst odds to win the division at +1000. The Steelers are the overwhelming favorites at -260 and the Ravens are second at +400. I just think Cincinnati is a lot closer to Baltimore in terms of talent than they are the Browns.