I've often thought this off-season; will the Bengals 2006 schedule be too much to overcome?
Of the sixteen opponents (some twice), eight won over ten games in 2005 -- ten finished with a .500 record or better. Of the eight away games, the Bengals play Kansas City (10-6), Pittsburgh (11-5 and Super Bowl Champs), Tampa Bay (11-5), Indianapolis (14-2), and Denver (13-3).
Then you look at the final three games of the season. On December 18th (week 15), the Bengals travel to Indy, then to Denver (week 16), and host the Pittsburgh Steelers (week 17) to end the season.
ESPN says the Bengals schedule is the toughest going into the season.
So will the Bengals overcome the difficult schedule?
The Bengals during the off-season signed Sam Adams to help slow down rushing teams like Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Denver. The Dexter Jackson signing, while not epic, still upgrades a position decimated by injury (Madieu Williams and Kim Herring) and poor play (see Ohalete) in 2005.
It's being reported Carson Palmer is throwing the ball well but hasn't tested the knee on drop backs and simple runs.
To the surprise of many of us, Johnson played hurt most of the season and had surgery in the off-season. Does this mean, if he plays at 100%, that he'll have an even bigger season? Now that Jeremi Johnson and Bobbie Williams have signed extensions, the Bengals rushing game is in no way in trouble. The team fully expects to have the remaining offensive linemen signed to extensions before the season starts.
Chris Henry (remember the play in the playoffs when he just collapsed) is expected to be back by camp pending his legal issues. It's also being reported that Chad Johnson is great physical shape mirroring Terrell Owens stature (except the ass part).
The tight-end is of some concern but offensive minded mock drafts have the team picking up Leonard Pope - we're turning into the Cincinnati Bulldogs quickly.
The offense, through concerns this off-season regarding injury and the law, is starting to come together. Players are recovering from injury and the front office is signing key players to extensions that could keep the foundation of the offense together for a long time.
So while the defense is upgrading and the offense is recovering, the 2006 schedule is looking less intimidating with optimistic reports coming out of Paul Brown stadium.