The Cincinnati Bengals are stuck in an endless purgatory and the 2018 season appears to be no different after the club made the decision to keep Marvin Lewis as their head coach.
Lewis was appointed as the Bengals’ head coach in 2001 and has guided the team to four AFC North Division crowns during his tenure.
However, Cincinnati have failed to win a playoff game in that period. Their last post-season defeat was an agonising one to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2015 campaign when they somehow found a way to lose the contest on home soil by a narrow margin.
In the two seasons since, Lewis’ men have failed to reach the playoffs, finishing third in the division in back-to-back campaigns. It was reported that the head coach was ready to stand down at the end of the 2017 season, only to agree a two-year extension to his deal at the end of the term.
The Bengals added a couple of decent players in free agency with the signings of Chris Baker and Preston Brown to improve the defense. They moved back in the Draft to acquire Cordy Glenn in a trade with the Buffalo Bills, while adding center Billy Price with their first-round pick.
It was a no thrills off-season, with the front office putt their faith in Lewis and the talent in their squad to get back to the playoffs after their 7-9 campaign.
Andy Dalton remains a middling quarterback, and although his season was solid it was not the campaign that he needed to guide his team into the playoffs. Dalton had a decent term statistically, throwing 25 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. The Bengals and Dalton were not helped by a litany of injuries, and although those players will return for the 2018 campaign, there remain doubts about the durability of certain key men.
Tyler Eifert has been a quality tight end when healthy, but those moments have been few and far between. The club made the decision to bring him back on board another two terms. Eifert at his best is a top-five player at his position in the NFL and an excellent redzone target. Should he play at least 75% of the Bengals’ matches, it would improve their offense significantly.
AJ Green has been one of the leading wideouts in the league since he was drafted in 2011. The Bengals relied heavily on him to carry the offense last season, and although he was still very effective, Green was not quite as dominant as past campaigns. He will be 30 by the start of the term and the club need other players step up and ease the burden on the veteran.
The two players that will have to improve are running back Joe Mixon and wideout John Ross. Ross was selected ninth overall in the 2017 Draft, but played in only three matches and failed to record a single reception. The 23-year-old cannot afford another lacklustre campaign. Mixon had off-the-field issues before joining Cincinnati, although he enjoyed a solid rookie season. There is scope for the running back to build off his term to ease the burden. There will be high expectations for him from Lewis and his team-mates.
Strong defensive play has been the foundation of keeping the Bengals competitive in the AFC North. However, key players are beginning to age, although Geno Atkins will remain a force at least for another season, although at the age of 30 his best days are likely behind him. Carlos Dunlap is entering the same boat on the defensive line. Carl Lawson is the rising star in the pass-rush, notching 8.5 sacks in his first term. He along with Jordan Willis and Sam Hubbard have to prove that they can ease the pressure on the club’s ageing stars.
Vontaze Burfict has been a polarising figure in the NFL. He’s loved by the Bengals and hated by opposition supporters. He will be out for the opening four matches of the season due to suspension, which will give rookie Malik Jefferson a chance to stake a claim for a permanent place in the starting unit. New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will be aiming to make an impression in his first term as he succeeds Paul Guenther. Preston Brown was a tackling machine for the Bills last season and should provide security and leadership in the middle of the field to offset the loss of Burfict early on.
The secondary should be the strength of the defense. William Jackson III has the tools to be an elite cornerback after impressing in the 2017 term. Another accomplished season will see him put into the ranks of the leading players at his position. Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick fill out the other cornerback slots alongside Jackson, while George Iloka and Shawn Williams take care of the back end. There’s talent on the defense, but whether it’s enough to support the ailing offense will be the story of the campaign.
There are too many question marks over key members of the team for the Bengals to make a push for the post-season. Green cannot carry the offense alone at the age of 30, while Ross showed nothing to suggest that he could alleviate the burden. Mixon has talent, but the offensive line had issues creating holes in the running game last term.
The defense has the quality, although not enough playmakers to make a difference to bridge the gap to the playoffs. Take them to miss the post-season at odds of -600 with 888Sport, but take the over on 6.5 wins at -118 . The Steelers’ dominance of the AFC North should continue, therefore the price of +1000 with TopBet for the club to win the division is only worth it with blind faith.
Green has recorded over 1,000 yards in six of his seven seasons in the NFL, only failing to reach the milestone when he missed six games in 2016. The Bengals will be relying on him once again, therefore take him to surpass the mark, but not reach over 1,200 yards at odds of -105 with BetOnline. He scored eight touchdowns last season and could reach that level again at odds of -105 . Dalton threw 25 strikes last season, take him to repeat his efforts by taking the over on 22 touchdowns at odds of +105 along with over 3,500 passing yards at odds of -110 with BetOnline.
Cincinnati Bengals To Not Reach Playoffs
Cincinnati Bengals To Win Over 6.5 Matches
AJ Green To Record Under 1,199 Receiving Yards
Andy Dalton To Record Over 22.5 Touchdowns