Top Five Reasons Bengals Fans Should Be Optimistic In 2011

While the Bengals are close to missing the playoffs in 2010, there's always hope. So here's a list of five reasons why Bengals fans have 2011 to look forward to.

#5 Certain Top Draft Pick

There are currently seven teams with three wins or less this season in the NFL. Any one of them could have the honor of selecting next year's first overall draft pick, which includes the honor of paying an unproven NFL rookie an unprecedented amount of guaranteed money. The Cincinnati Bengals are securely in-line with a top-five draft pick, which will obviously help the team's eventual exodus of players with expiring contracts. However, it's debatable on whom they would draft. A good place to start is expiring contracts amongst starters like Cedric Benson, Johnathan Joseph, Roy Williams and Dhani Jones. Brandon Johnson and Johnathan Fanene are free agents next year, as are Terrell Owens, Andre Caldwell and Chad Ochocinco, who actually has a team option in 2011.

If you're fairly confident that the Bengals won't use their first round pick on a cornerback or linebacker, you'd be right. If Joseph leaves, they have Adam Jones and Morgan Trent that could fill in without the need of using a top-five draft pick. Rey Maualuga could slide over to middle linebacker and the team could either draft an outside linebacker later in the draft, or finally give Brandon Johnson a starting gig at outside linebacker -- he's gone otherwise. There's Roddrick Muckelroy, but we haven't seen much of him on defense to get a good reading yet. Unless there's an Adrian Peterson-like back coming into the draft, using a top-five pick on a running back is a waste. The team won't keep Carson Palmer and a top-five quarterback -- the cost alone would be too much. Therefore, I could see the team drafting a wide receiver or a safety with a top-five pick. One could make an argument for a defensive end, but unless they release Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom, it seems unlikely that the team will head into training camp with five starting defensive ends.

Either way, having a top-five draft pick enables not only the opportunity to pick one of the best players coming into the draft, but the chance to completely revamp an area of need that could be the basis of your foundation, at that position, for ten years.

That's why the Bengals should trade it for draft picks, keeping the money that would be used to sign a top-five draft pick to keep Joseph in Cincinnati.

#4 Lack of Sell Outs At Paul Brown Stadium

The last time that the issue of the Bengals being unable to sell games out was in 2002. What's frightening similar to that season is that the Bengals could finish this season with the same amount of wins as that year. If you compare 2002 to 2010, you'll note that the defenses are relatively the same (2002: 17th overall, 32nd scoring... 2010: 16th overall, 26th scoring) and, more head-banging-against-the-desk than Edward versus Jacob, is that the total offense in 2002 was actually better.

Regardless, Mike Brown elected to make a change by letting go a defensive coach that would go on to join the Hall of Fame (Dick LeBeau) and hiring Marvin Lewis, who would revamp much of the team's overall structure. At least for awhile.

As it stands now, the Bengals could see four games that won't be sold out to end the season. The last time this actually did happen, Brown and the Bengals front office made a change at head coach. Will the team make another radical change to rebuild like they did after 2002? Probably not. But it looks good on a top-five list.

#3 Defense Will Recover From Injuries

Yes. Yes. Another year with this Mike Zimmer defense will undoubtedly cover for an ineffective offense. Wait, we got Terrell Owens? We drafted Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham? This offense is going to be AWE$OME!

Then the season started and the Bengals defense promptly gave up 38 points to the New England Patriots. While in hindsight, the Patriots are actually one of those teams that we can label as being halfway decent, it was still a shock to the system. Yet, it was the first game of the year, so we were presenting our annual mulligan. While the Bengals have given up more than 30 points three times year, the horrifying reality is that the Bengals defense hasn't allowed less than 22 points in any loss this year. Why? You can start with injuries.

Now, go to the bathroom and pull out two aspirins.

Let's go through them. Jonathan Fanene, defensive end that recorded the second most sacks last season, has played in only two games this year, finding a home on IR several weeks ago. Adam Jones, rated as the team's third best cover corner by PFF, was placed on IR in late October. Morgan Trent, rated as the team's second best cover corner by PFF, was placed on IR in mid-November and Jonathan Joseph, rated as the team's best cover corner by God himself, has missed three of the previous six games with a high ankle sprain. Frostee Rucker, placed on IR in late November, started three games this year. Placed on IR on the same day as Rucker, Crocker has started all but two games in his 30-game career with the Bengals. Tank Johnson and Antwan Odom, both starters on the defensive line, are the latest victims to go on IR while Roy Williams, the team's other starting safety, missed three games midway through the season, four in all.

Go ahead. Take those aspirins now.

The result?

The Bengals were forced to sign Jonathan Wade off the streets and start him against the Jets three days later. Even Rico Murray, a practice squad player several weeks ago that's currently rated by PFF as the worst cover cornerback on the roster, has seen significant playing time. The team's current rotation of safeties, besides Williams and Chinedum Ndukwe are Tom Nelson and Reggie Nelson; who couldn't buy a snap on defense when everyone was healthy. Clinton McDonald and Jeromy Miles, both on the practice squad, are now on the team's rotation at their respective positions.

It's really not hard to believe that the Bengals scoring defense is ranked 26th in the league. What's actually impressive is that the Bengals defense has only allowed more than 30 points only once since November with this mash unit of players running around in full body casts. The problem? The offense, of course, for not scoring 35 points per possession.

#2 Odd Years Are Good To The Bengals

Marvin Lewis joined the Bengals in January of 2003, declaring that "I have a plan" which consisted of audio clips of his distinctive laugh and showing his mastery of, "if a coach talks, does he really ever say anything." Yet Lewis improved the Bengals 2002 season with a six-win improvement and the team's first .500 season in eight years.

Two years later in 2005, the Bengals made the playoffs for the first time since most of Cincy Jungle's writers were getting off breast milk. In 2009, the Bengals followed up a 4-11-1 season with another six-game improvement and Cincinnati making the playoffs again. Granted, the Bengals went 7-9 in 2007 and nothing of significance really came out of the season; but we're calling that the exception to the rule. And really, nothing happened in 2007 anyway. In the entire world.

So if history repeats itself, and typically it usually does, the Bengals are locks to make the playoffs in 2011.

#1 We Just Won't Have A Season

The owners lock out the players and we just won't have a season, which in many perspectives, could be better than having to deal with a season like this.

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