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Preseason Power Rankings No. 9: Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton, Vontaze Burfict AP

The 2013 Bengals won 11 games, third-most in their history. They outscored opponents by 125 points, a margin superior to their Super Bowl entrants of 1981 (+117) and 1988 (+125). They were 4-0 against eventual playoff teams, knocking off Green Bay, New England, San Diego and Indianapolis.

But once again, Cincinnati was one-and-done in the postseason. The Chargers, whom the Bengals handled in December, turned the tables in January, rolling to a 27-10 wild card win in Cincinnati. And once again, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton played poorly on the playoff stage, committing three turnovers.

The loss dropped coach Marvin Lewis’ playoff record to 0-5, with three home playoff defeats. It also marked the 23rd consecutive season the franchise didn’t win a single postseason game.

The good news? The 2014 Bengals should contend for another trip to the playoffs. There are quite a few General Managers who would surely trade rosters with Cincinnati in a heartbeat, and that cannot be overlooked, even as another postseason setback is fresh in memory.

Strengths.

The Bengals’ defense is one of the league’s best. No AFC club was better stopping the opposition short on third downs a season ago, and only Seattle gave up less yards per play. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins and weak-side linebacker Vontaze Burfict (171 tackles in 2013 ) are the standouts on this skilled stop unit. Atkins, who comes off an ACL tear, is an outstanding interior rusher when healthy, while Burfict, a former undrafted free agent, has become a star.

The Bengals’ offense can hold up its end of the bargain, too. A.J. Green (98 catches, 1,426 yards, 11 TDs in 2013) is a bona fide go-to receiver, a tall, fast, athletic, sure-handed pass catcher who can shred secondaries. Tailback Giovani Bernard (695 yards rushing, 514 yards receiving) is an exciting playmaker, as is wideout Marvin Jones (51 catches, 712 yards, 10 TDs). The Bengals are deep at tight end, too, with Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham a nice 1-2 punch.

Dalton (4,293 yards, 33 TD passes, 20 interceptions) is durable and productive. His TD passes total about 61 percent of the club’s touchdowns in the last three seasons (80-of-132). Dalton enters the final year of his contract, and his future is a major storyline entering 2014.

The Bengals’ offensive line is solid, with two former first-round picks (right tackle Andre Smith, right guard Kevin Zeitler) among its ranks. Dalton was sacked 17 fewer times in 2013.

Weaknesses.

Too many of Cincinnati’s drives end in Dalton turnovers. He committed at least two turnovers in 7-of-16 regular season starts in 2013 and followed that with two picks and one fumble in the wild card loss. If Dalton cuts down on the giveaways, this could be an elite offense on its very best, given the talent on hand.

With Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles) coming off serious injuries, the Bengals’ defensive depth is an area to watch. Moreover, the club is a little thinner at defensive end after Michael Johnson’s departure in free agency.

Finally, the offense and defense will be adjusting to new coordinators. On defense, Paul Guenther replaces Mike Zimmer, who became Minnesota’s head coach. On offense, Hue Jackson takes over for Jay Gruden, now Washington’s head coach. Both Guenther and Jackson have ample experience in Cincinnati, which could shorten the transitional period.

Changes.

The Bengals suffered a few losses in free agency, though that was to be expected. Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins received lucrative deals from Tampa Bay, which turned over its roster under new head coach Lovie Smith. The Bengals also lost slot receiver Andrew Hawkins to Cleveland after declining to match an offer sheet.

The Bengals released a pair of 2013 starters, parting ways with strong-side linebacker James Harrison and center Kyle Cook. Emmanuel Lamur could take over for Harrison, while veteran Mike Pollak and rookie Russell Bodine are among the competitors to replace Cook.

At the backup spots, the biggest move came with the addition of quarterback Jason Campbell, who reunites with Jackson, his head coach in Oakland three years ago.

In the draft, the Bengals added several rookies who could contribute right off the bat, including tailback Jeremy Hill, a second-round pick from LSU. The club’s first-round selection, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, joins a deep CB corps.

Camp battles.

With a strong roster, competition is a given. Here are the positions to monitor:

Running back: The Bengals are willing to play young skill-position players, so Hill figures to get a real shot getting plenty of work. Bernard will not lack for touches, so any work Hill earns could put the squeeze on veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who’s slated to make $2.3 million this season.

Cornerback: Dennard and third-year pro Dre Kirkpatrick are waiting in the wings behind Hall, Terence Newman and Adam Jones. Hall is trying to return from a second Achilles injury since 2011.

Linebacker: Lamur and Vincent Rey are the players to watch. Can Vincent Rey push Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker?

Defensive end: With Johnson gone, there are more reps to be had opposite Carlos Dunlap. Wallace Gilberry (7.5 sacks in 2013) will get his share of work. Keep an eye on second-year pro Margus Hunt and rookie Will Clarke, two fresh faces at the position.

Center: Pollak, Bodine and Trevor Robinson are the candidates to take over for Cook.

Prospects.

The Bengals have a challenging schedule. They draw the NFC South in non-conference play, which entails trips to powerful New Orleans and improved Tampa Bay and home games against respectable Atlanta and Carolina. The Bengals will also face each of the AFC’s first-place clubs from a season ago (Denver, Indianapolis, New England). Finally, the club also draws an early bye (Week Four), which means any later-season injury issues will challenge the team’s depth.

In a scheduling quirk, six of Cincinnati’s first nine games are at home, including three in a row from Oct. 26 through Nov. 6 (Baltimore, Jacksonville, Cleveland). However, the Bengals then take a three-game Southern road trip, facing New Orleans, Houston and Tampa Bay in succession.

Nevertheless, the Bengals appear equipped to handle such regular season challenges. In fact, a hurdle-laden schedule could be just what’s needed to keep Cincinnati sharp as it goes for its fourth playoff berth in a row.

The Bengals are beyond the thrill of simply getting to the postseason. Winning in January is what they seek. Their last playoff win was at Riverfront Stadium, back before Nirvana’s “Nevermind” had even been released.

It’s been too long between playoff successes for Cincinnati, but so it goes in the NFL, which has no best-of-seven tournaments. The league does, however, have quite the tough 12-team, one-and-done bracket, as the Bengals know too well.

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67 Responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 9: Cincinnati Bengals”
  1. ctiggs says: Jul 18, 2014 3:29 PM

    Alright, What did the Ravens gain in the offseason that i dont remeber other than old steve smith or how much did they pay you?

  2. hjb99992013 says: Jul 18, 2014 3:33 PM

    this is obviously a typo….

    actually meant to say 19th (…there fixed for you

  3. jtbsteeler says: Jul 18, 2014 3:33 PM

    I’m glad the expectations are high fo the Ravens. That way when they fall flat the embarrassment will be greater.

  4. jimmyt says: Jul 18, 2014 3:34 PM

    The important power rankings are at the end of the season.

  5. westandwest3805 says: Jul 18, 2014 3:34 PM

    The Bengals young players are getting to the point where they feel like they are peaking and getting to the playoffs is not enough. Look out for Cincinnati to do damage in the AFC North again this year, a first round bye should be a goal for them.

  6. sladewillson says: Jul 18, 2014 3:36 PM

    Truth be told as a ravens fan I didn’t expect for PFT to put the ravens a top of the AFCN… well here’s to hoping it holds true

  7. bassplucker says: Jul 18, 2014 3:36 PM

    So, two of the teams in the AFC North are among the 9 best teams in the league?

    No.

  8. jetsmmt says: Jul 18, 2014 3:36 PM

    So is that guy proposing to Dalton or something?

  9. thepftpoet says: Jul 18, 2014 3:38 PM

    Way too high.

    Mike Zimmer was the only chance at the Bengals making a run at the Super Bowl and he left for the historic Minnesota Vikings .

    Now the torch has been passed.

    And the Vikings are perennial Super Bowl Contenders.

    Mike Zimmer > The Bengals.

  10. pem34 says: Jul 18, 2014 3:38 PM

    They also lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators to HC jobs…so you could add that to the mix (although it doesn’t seem like that will set them back).

  11. tedmurph says: Jul 18, 2014 3:39 PM

    I still think Dalton and Lewis hold back a top 5 roster. They’ll be a playoff contender, but I think either Baltimore, Pittsburgh or both pass them this yr. They’ll have to make some tough decisions about Dalton and Lewis. 9 wins.

  12. allhailkingflacco says: Jul 18, 2014 3:41 PM

    Cinci will finish 3rd behind Steelers and Division Champs Baltimore

  13. cfeeley52 says: Jul 18, 2014 3:41 PM

    Doesn’t matter what they’re ranked. They will never make it past the first round with the Red Headed Squirt Gun at the helm…

  14. darkneptune73 says: Jul 18, 2014 3:42 PM

    They won’t even make the playoffs this year.

  15. powpow042 says: Jul 18, 2014 3:43 PM

    I can totally understand why you would have the Bengals 9th and the Chargers 16th.

    Might be the worst rankings I’ve ever seen.

  16. stuckthefeelers says: Jul 18, 2014 3:43 PM

    Ravens > Bengals > Steelers. Just the way it is. Ravens only team in the division with a Super Bowl MVP on the roster

  17. beardinals says: Jul 18, 2014 3:44 PM

    I think PFT has been somewhat accurate on about 5 teams. I can see this one and a few other are complately out of left field.

  18. reed20fence says: Jul 18, 2014 3:44 PM

    Pft usually hates the Ravens but I guess even a broken clock can be right twice a day…

  19. kcflake says: Jul 18, 2014 3:44 PM

    Panthers #10 and Bengals #9??? Man, it’s hard to take these PFT rankings seriously. It seems PFT doesn’t have a clue.

  20. sladewillson says: Jul 18, 2014 3:45 PM

    As I said before I expected for PFT to dog the Ravens. However, I do believe the Bangles will take a step back to both the Ravens and the Steelers if not one of the two.

  21. axespray says: Jul 18, 2014 3:45 PM

    Watching that game between the Packers and Bengals last year…

    and my god – I have never seen a QB rely on so much rabbits in the hat gimmick tricks as Dalton had to rely on.

    The dude is a fraud.

  22. dalcow4 says: Jul 18, 2014 3:46 PM

    So.. The Bengals get dominated by SD in the playoffs, lose their offensive coordinator who was the person responsible for their turnaround, and they’re still at #9 while the Chargers drop to mid-teens?

    Uh…

  23. ravanator says: Jul 18, 2014 3:46 PM

    Ravens own the Bungals in the regular season, and now in the preseason rankings. Such a great time to be a Ravens fan, the future is bright. Bungals are jealous of our rings. Cheers!

    #flacco>dalton
    #superbowlmvpjoemontanaflacco

  24. Umbra Aeternus says: Jul 18, 2014 3:48 PM

    So the ProRavensTalk power rankings go like:
    #1 Ravens
    #2Broncos
    #3 Seahawks?

  25. Umbra Aeternus says: Jul 18, 2014 3:51 PM

    Mr Ravanator, you remember week 17 when the ravens had to win to get to the playoffs? Remember 17-34?
    Just sayin’

  26. opinevain says: Jul 18, 2014 3:57 PM

    Everyone hating on the Ravens and probably didnt watch the Ravens. We were in the division race until week 16 I believe and then in the playoff race until week 17. We lost to Cincy in Cincy, and we finish 8-8. We had a bad year last year and still had shot.

  27. dws123 says: Jul 18, 2014 4:00 PM

    No mention of Dalton being the most glaring weakness?

  28. kazkal says: Jul 18, 2014 4:00 PM

    How you put the Ravens above the Bengals ill never understand.

  29. phillysports1 says: Jul 18, 2014 4:03 PM

    Bengals #9 ?

  30. joemammy says: Jul 18, 2014 4:05 PM

    Power rankings mean nothing. The Ben-gals will end up 2nd in the AFC North, with the Steelers and Ravens trailing far behind.

    The obvious winner in the AFCN will be Cleveland. These lesser teams can eat dust.

  31. mkoogs says: Jul 18, 2014 4:10 PM

    Jackson as OC will help Dalton. Green is exercising more leadership. Lamar was the starter last year until injured in last preseason game. Steelers are always dangerous with the Bengals but the Bengals will win the division. Time to win in the postseason.

  32. calvinthegreat82 says: Jul 18, 2014 4:14 PM

    This team nor the Ravens belong in the top 10!

    Raven’s fans are wagonjumpers, fact!!!

    Overrated and more Overrated!

  33. sladewillson says: Jul 18, 2014 4:16 PM

    joemammy says:
    Jul 18, 2014 4:05 PM
    Power rankings mean nothing. The Ben-gals will end up 2nd in the AFC North, with the Steelers and Ravens trailing far behind.

    The obvious winner in the AFCN will be Cleveland. These lesser teams can eat dust.
    ___________________________________
    Wow you must be some kind of stupid or something if you think Cleveland as any shot at taking the AFCN. I’ll tell you what im willing to bet $3,000 that Cleveland will be drafting in the top 12 next year

  34. bonniebengal says: Jul 18, 2014 4:19 PM

    While losing Mike Zimmer hurts a lot, losing Jay Gruden and getting Hue Jackson instead is actually a plus. Gruden is an inconsistent play caller who abandoned the run too often and didn’t call plays to the strengths of the players.

  35. arrowtoyourknee says: Jul 18, 2014 4:23 PM

    By no stretch am I a Bengals fan.. but really? Below the Ravens at #9? Baltimore is not going to be a top 10 team this year. Bengals might be if they can build on what they had last year. But with their two main coordinators leaving… I doubt it. We’ll see though. Hopefully they can sit on top of that division again, cuz well, Pittsburg and Baltimore are way too full of themselves. It would be nice to see their annoying fanbases have to shut it for another year. They’re like the Packers… a few splashy players, but ultimately a weak roster. Bengals are solid, and I hope they can turn in a good season in that division.

    Skol Vikings!

  36. mdjones10 says: Jul 18, 2014 4:24 PM

    Dear Angry Bengals Fans –

    Your team hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990. So yeah, keep talking, it’s amusing to us.

    – Ravens Fans

  37. humb0lt says: Jul 18, 2014 4:28 PM

    The Bengals will go as far as Andy Dalton can take them, which is one and done.

  38. ashleyschafferbmw says: Jul 18, 2014 4:28 PM

    Everyone thinks this division is weak, but truth is it has 3 very dangerous teams come December that few people want to play.

  39. 1952vikefan says: Jul 18, 2014 4:33 PM

    not to mention losing both O.C. & D.C. Marvin has a plate full

  40. dws123 says: Jul 18, 2014 4:35 PM

    mdjones10 says:
    Jul 18, 2014 4:24 PM

    Your team hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990. So yeah, keep talking, it’s amusing to us.

    – Ravens Fans

    —————-

    You mean back when your fanbase was called the Dawg Pound? Baltimore Browns fans would be wise not to bring up history before 1996 unless its in reference to the Colts.

  41. west458 says: Jul 18, 2014 5:03 PM

    I have the Bengals winning the North and would place them above the Ravens. The offense should be much better because Hue Jackson is a proven OC and I think that we’ll see an improvement in both the running and passing game. Smash mouth football is a tradition in the AFC Central/North – solid defense and power running to set up the pass. Looks like the Bengals have all the ingredients. The defense will miss Zimmer but I don’t see much of a drop off overall with all the talented on that side of the ball.

    As for Dalton — he has improved every year and I’ll take one and done the past three years in the playoffs after the 90’s and early 2000s. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want another one and done I want it all.

  42. joshhatesthesteelers says: Jul 18, 2014 5:05 PM

    Honestly I have no idea how the ravens could be ranked ahead of the bengals or steelers. The ravens have no run game , and an aging Defense that can’t cover for Flacco anymore. The bengals should run away with the division

  43. casualmalexlfan says: Jul 18, 2014 5:09 PM

    I’m going to laugh if PFT lists one of the reasons for ranking the Ravens so high in the top 10 is because of their hiring of Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison, the head coach and offensive coordinator of the team that went 2-14 last season.

  44. largent80100 says: Jul 18, 2014 5:12 PM

    Dalton should be a game manager, he is average but the team is already built around them, there are targets, protection and a good defense anchored by elite players like Atikins.

    Dalton is their weakest link so they should play to minimize his mistakes, the 2012 49ers with Alex Smith could be an inspiration (even though Smith always looked like a QB less turnover-prone than Dalton, even when he was labeled as a bust).

    I wonder what’s about the Ravens hype, did 20+ INTs make Flacco elite?

  45. chargersdiehard says: Jul 18, 2014 5:14 PM

    The Chargers at 16 and the Bengals at 9? Six months ago we beat them in Cincy. What happened since then?

  46. seadawgs72 says: Jul 18, 2014 5:19 PM

    I like the Bengals & always have but i don’t know how you rank them 2 spots above the Cards. The Cards went 10 & 6 in the best division in football with a 1st year head coach. I don’t wanna take anything away from Cincy but IMO the entire AFC is in a down trend so i just don’t think the competition is strong enough to be ranked 9th when they got knocked out in the 1st round at home. As a Boise St fan I’ve been watching Dalton since his TCU days & although i was always against him in college I’ve pulled for him ever since he entered the NFL. I’d love to see the Bengals prove me wrong & see Dalton take the next step.

    Go Hawks!

  47. tictoccpthook says: Jul 18, 2014 5:29 PM

    Third place in the AFC North.

  48. thefiesty1 says: Jul 18, 2014 5:32 PM

    Green and Dalton are a great tandem but still ranked a few spots too high.

  49. notwhoyouthinkitis says: Jul 18, 2014 5:33 PM

    Wow, this has to be the worst ranking decision in a long, long time. Bengals are no where close to being 9th. Should be far, far lower. QED.

  50. theravenlives2 says: Jul 18, 2014 5:39 PM

    Your team hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990. So yeah, keep talking, it’s amusing to us.

    – Ravens Fans

    —————-

    You mean back when your fanbase was called the Dawg Pound? Baltimore Browns fans would be wise not to bring up history before 1996 unless its in reference to the Colts.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    OK, let’s take an objective look at this…

    Since 1996 (Ravens first season)

    Ravens
    Overall record: 172-124-1 .579 winning %
    Playoff appearances: 9
    Playoff record: 14-7
    AFC Championship appearances: 5
    AFC Championships: 2
    Super Bowl Championships: 2

    Bengals
    Overall record: 133-159-1 .453 winning %
    Playoff appearances: 5
    Playoff record: 0-5
    AFC Championship appearances: 0
    AFC Championships: 0
    Super Bowl Championships: 0

    So, tell me again, how – exactly – are the Bungals superior to the Ravens?

  51. officialgame says: Jul 18, 2014 6:05 PM

    I actually think Jackson will be a major upgrade over Jay Gruden.

  52. seahawkfanfrom1970s says: Jul 18, 2014 6:08 PM

    The Bengals are one of the few AFC teams who could compete in the NFC.

  53. joemammy says: Jul 18, 2014 6:16 PM

    sladewillson says:

    “Wow you must be some kind of stupid or something if you think Cleveland as any shot at taking the AFCN. I’ll tell you what im willing to bet $3,000 that Cleveland will be drafting in the top 12 next year”
    ——————————–

    Your mommy gives you that much allowance? You must some some very special young lady!

  54. buzzbeaubank says: Jul 18, 2014 6:47 PM

    jtbsteeler says:
    Jul 18, 2014 3:33 PM
    I’m glad the expectations are high fo the Ravens. That way when they fall flat the embarrassment will be greater.
    ———–
    Really ramping up the predictions this summer. When are you going to be right about something?

  55. petehimself2112 says: Jul 18, 2014 7:02 PM

    Whoever said the Ravens defense is old that is not the case at all. There pretty young with exception of T-sizzle, Ngata, and Doom. They played well last year and I expect a top ten defense this year.

  56. descendency says: Jul 18, 2014 7:15 PM

    The Bengals are a really good team being held back by a bottom 5 QB.

    I think 9th is a bit high (given the teams that were just named behind them), but they are definitely in the top half of the league.

  57. Bull Rush says: Jul 18, 2014 7:18 PM

    “Raven’s fans are wagonjumpers, fact!!!”

    A “fact” huh. Please cite YOUR sources. I have plenty of real facts. Search loyal NFL fan bases for one.

  58. drunkwino says: Jul 18, 2014 8:05 PM

    jimmyt says:
    Jul 18, 2014 3:34 PM
    The important power rankings are at the end of the season
    ————-
    The important power rankings are never. This isn’t the NCAA.

  59. udontknowjaq says: Jul 18, 2014 8:07 PM

    This has to be a joke! Where are the Ravens they should not be ranked ahead of the Bengals & I’m a Steelers fan. The Bengals have a top 5 def the Ravens have about 10 new starters on D the last 17 months, a 32 year old TE & 35 year old wr added, a O coordinator that won 2 games last year as a head coach, no run game with a suspect oline & their top Rb soon to be suspended. I dont see the logic in them being ranked in the Elite 8.

    Ohh and to the cheerleaders for the NFC, mainly fans of the NFCW teams, really need to chill on downing the AFC, because the NFC only won 4 games over the AFC conference head to head. Its parity in the NFL, cause I remember the NFC a few years ago had a 7-9 team go to the playoffs & actually won the game & that div the NFCW was historically bad then!

  60. youpeopleareallthesame says: Jul 18, 2014 8:07 PM

    Weren’t we 3 games better than the Ravens and we blew them out last time we met, in a game that they HAD to have?????

  61. theravenlives2 says: Jul 18, 2014 8:36 PM

    “Raven’s fans are wagonjumpers, fact!!!”
    ===========================

    Again, don’t let me confuse you with the facts…

    Baltinore Ravens
    18 seasons, 185 games sold out, including pre-season and playoffs (every game in franchise history).

    BTW: I know this to be true. See, my “wagonjumper” self was at 183 of these games.

    Cincinnati Bengals
    ???????

  62. easyeintennessee says: Jul 18, 2014 9:21 PM

    24. That’s the number of touchdown passes Dalton has thrown in division games since his career began in 2011, the most among AFC North quarterbacks in that time span. Flacco has thrown 22 touchdown passes and Roethlisberger has 20 in division games during that stretch.

    Have fun battling it out for 2nd place Ravens and Browns…. Sorry Steelers, at least you’ll be drafting top 8 next year!

  63. natelan69 says: Jul 19, 2014 7:33 AM

    Chargers fan here…

    I think the Bengals have a 10+ year window for Super Bowl contention. They have all the pieces on offense (yes, including Dalton) and defense, they are young and they have cap space.

    That being said, you play in a division with;
    A) The Browns (need I say more?)
    B) An aging and quickly declining Steelers
    C) And a Ravens team that looked helpless last year.

    My Chargers play in a division with;
    A) The Raiders (OK, so Raiders and Browns cancel eachother out)
    B) A resurgent and relatively young Chiefs
    C) And a powerhouse Broncos team (whom we beat in Denver last year).

    Then (no offense), we crushed you in the playoffs, in Cinci.

    So how exactly are we 7 spots behind you?

    I repeat, you guys are a great team, and your window is much wider than ours is, but still, 7 spots ahead…? Hmm…

  64. clashpoint says: Jul 19, 2014 12:41 PM

    Awesome and good luck with this. I’m happy with what my Steelers did this off-season and I like how they compare against the Bengals, and I like the Steelers underrated and Cincinnati overrated. Can we play the games yet?!

  65. voiceofreasonsays says: Jul 19, 2014 2:54 PM

    Bengals lost Gruden and Zimmer. 7-9 at best for them.

  66. samoanjungle says: Jul 19, 2014 10:52 PM

    Well written.
    The Bengals should not be projected to be behind the Ravens however. Even the Steelers should be ranked ahead of the Ravens.

  67. jm91rs says: Jul 20, 2014 1:05 PM

    Bengals finished with 11 wins. Only 8 other teams finished with 11+ wins so it’s not at all that surprising that they would finish top 10 in power rankings. None of the players they lost will make as much difference as adding Atkins and hall. You can’t rank teams based on winning or losing one playoff game, the bengals have a better te than the chargers, simple as that.

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