Of course not
-Are we better than the Baltimore Ravens?
Not by a longshot
-Are we better than the Cleveland Browns?
As hard as it is to say, sadly most likely no
If for some odd reason you found yourself answering yes to 2/3 of those questions, ask yourself this:
-Are we better than the New York Jets or New England Patriots?
-Are we better than the Indianapolis Colts or Houston Texans?
Not a chance in HELL.
Therefore, we have no chance of winning a wild card spot…or the division for that matter.
So exactly who are we and where do we fit in this picture? It’s true that the core of this team won the division in 2009. However, it’s also true that the core of this team is now “retired in California” and “livin large” in Houston. I’m talking about Carson Palmer and Jonathan Joseph of course. In order to win NOW we need those men back. Face it, we aren’t winning many games this season. Seven or Eight MAX. However, to win in the FUTURE—we’re set. Here’s why
The Bengals have drafted EXCEPTIONALLY well over the last four years. The Bengals are one of the youngest teams in the National Football League. All this team needs is three or four years of game experience and they will be ready to COMPETE for an AFC CHAMPIONSHIP. Yes I said it.
I expect Cedric Benson to receive a contract extension after this season. He will be the workhorse for the next 5 years in Cincinnati. The offensive line is built around the RUN not the PASS. Expect more running plays from new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. AJ Green will soon emerge as one of the top five receivers in the National Football League. Jermaine Gresham is without a doubt a top five talent tight end. The defense will struggle for a couple years, but with two more years of drafting to fill the holes left by this offseason and injuries, the line backing and defensive back vacancies will be filled. Throw this in with a premiere defensive front (Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson) and the Bengals will soon again be a top 10 defense. However, there is ONE FACTOR that can kill this whole process. It can set the Bengals back 5 or 6 years. A promising young team could easily transform into a perennial bottom feeder (like it is now) for the long haul. The key is: ANDY DALTON
Every time you invest a high draft pick in a Quarterback, you run the risk of him becoming a bust. Look at what’s happening with Alex Smith in San Francisco. The coaches keep holding out hope that he will blossom into the star they hoped he would become, but in hindsight, they’ve wasted valuable football seasons. The 49ers had a defense easily good enough to win over the last four years. But because of the niner’s lagging offense, the team was unable to reach its full potential. The same story could very well be happening in Denver with Tim Tebow. Or in Cincinnati for that matter.
Luckily for the Bengals, Andy Dalton was a SECOND round draft selection so there is less pressure to play him. But when your other options at Quarterback are Bruce Gradkowski, Dan LeFevour, and Jordan Palmer…odds are that Dalton plays. All Andy Dalton needs to do to be successful is be a game manager. Make good decisions. Hand the ball off. Execute short timing routes. Sell play action passes and move out of the pocket. He does not need to be running a no huddle offense, reading defenses, and calling plays himself like we often see Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning doing. If he is able to manage the game successfully, I see this Bengal team having a bright future… and perhaps a legacy as well. Do I hear Super Bowl?