Can the Cincinnati Bengals shake off their recent playoff losses and make the final step toward the Super Bowl? They have to. Anything else would be a huge letdown for a team that appears to have all the pieces in place to make a deep playoff run. Having gone the Wild Card route two years in a row, the Bengals will now try to win the AFC North outright if they can get past Baltimore. What the Bengals need is the ability to deliver the killing stroke, to win when it’s an absolute must, and to score when the scoreboard isn’t in their favor.
Quarterback Andy Dalton is an illustration of his team’s status. Dalton had a fine rookie season, then followed it up with a solid sophomore year but somehow never found the killer instinct so vital to a Super Bowl contender. When the chips were down the Bengals offense fell flat. To counter that trend Cincinnati went to the NFL draft and came away with Tight End Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. Eifert will give the Bengals more choices from the tow tight end set while Bernard is seen as a guy who can make game breaking plays with just a sliver of running room.
Cincinnati’s defense is solid up front. The Bengals signed James Harrison away from the Steelers to give them a rushing threat they lacked last season. The secondary is a bit of a question mark at safety where it’s entirely possible Shawn Williams will start his rookie season. The cornerbacks are solid if not spectacular. Cincinnati needs their pass rush to keep opposing offenses in check.
Bottom Line? The Cincinnati Bengals are right on the cusp. If the offense can maintain consistency and not go into a shell in big games, if Dalton has other options besides A.J. Green, and uses them, you can anticipate seeing the Bengals in the playoffs as the AFC North winner.