SEATTLE - OCTOBER 30: Head Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals watches the game against the Seattle Seahawks on October 30, 2011 at Century Link Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Like much of our friendly neighborhood national writers, Don Banks of Sports Illustrated offers up his midseason report, grouping the Bengals with Bufalo, Detroit, Houson and San Francisco as one of the stories of the year due to the dramatic nature of their respective turnarounds. And that's true. Did anyone expect Buffalo and Detroit to explosively announce their arrivals this year? And San Francisco, while in a weak division, is being discussed in some circles as a possible number two seed for the NFC playoffs.
Yet, Bank's most overlooked storyline?
The Bengals Are Contenders:
Buoyed by their Mike Zimmer-coached defense and that boffo rookie QB-receiver combination of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, 5-2 Cincinnati has already topped its 2010 win total of four and is breathing down the neck of first-place Pittsburgh (6-2) in the AFC North. Did anyone see this coming? Not me. I picked the Bengals to be the worst team in the NFL this season and win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. And adding to their hot streak, Bengals owner Mike Brown might have executed the steal of the century (at least the new one) by shipping Carson Palmer to the desperate Raiders.