Could The Bengals Be The Surprise Team In 2011 (Yep, We're Going There)

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Chris Crocker #42 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates with fans after the Bengals defeated the Cleveland Browns 27-17 at Cleveland Browns Stadium during a season opener on September 11, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 27-17. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

+ As we caution tempered excitement for the start of the regular season, it's nothing like Joel Thorman's prognostication that Cincinnati could be the surprise team of 2011. Joel (writer for SBNation.com and SB Nation's Kansas City Chiefs website) is a good friend of ours at Cincy Jungle and our initial reaction was the obvious, "it's been only one game" response. And it's true. The Bengals won through guts and glory, battling adversity like a Spartan warrior at the end. Thorman's reasoning? The Bengals early schedule.

Before we move on, let's replay an old posting of ours dated July 15 with the headline: "Look no further than their opponents: why the 2011 Bengals could surprise people." (I'm not above blockquoting myself)

But the Bengals could actually surprise people in 2011. That's not revising expectations, it's accounting for the 2011 season rather than statistical analysis or detailed grades of the previous season. Yet you look at the schedule and there was no better season for the Bengals to rebuild their offense.

Only three teams the Bengals face in 2011 produced winning records last season (Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore). Cincinnati will play nine games, count them, nine games against teams that won six games or less in 2010. We're not expecting the Bengals to make the playoffs. But much like the 2010 record seemed to indicate, their 2011 season won't be as bad as some are making us believe.

Step one. So far, so good.

There are things that we have to take into account however, keeping those explosive emotions bottled. The Bengals haven't beaten the Broncos in Denver since 1975 (my mother was 19 years old). Cincinnati hasn't beaten Buffalo since the Bengals 21-10 win during the AFC Championship game in 1988 (I was ten years old), suffering ten straight defeats. Since 1998 the Bengals are 2-9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati hasn't beaten the Colts since Peyton Manning entered the league.

But there's other aspects to acknowledge.

The Bengals haven't lost to the 49ers in Cincinnati since 1990 (winning two straight). Peyton Manning won't be under center when the Colts come to town and during Cincinnati's eight-game losing streak in Denver, six were decided by a touchdown or less.

We could ramble on with a declaration that the Bengals will could sport a winning record before their week nine meeting against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But as they say, one game at a time.

One more thing before we let you debate the importance of a single regular season game hinting towards a 16-game prediction. The Bengals rebounded after a four-win season in 2009, capturing the AFC North championship. They're currently following up another four-win regular season from 2010. Both playoff teams in 2005 and 2009 were during odd-numbered years and the worst campaign during an odd-numbered season is 2007, where the Bengals won only seven games.

Not that we're provoking you or anything.

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