I dusted off the old magic eight-ball and asked 10 Bengals questions. The strange part was that it answered in complete sentences. In all seriousness, here are ten predictions for the Bengals second half of the 2012 season. Not all of them are pleasant.
Marvin Jones will start 7 of the last 9 games
The Bengals know they need speed and athleticism at the No. 2 wide receiver position. Marvin Jones is the only player on the roster that can provide that. It's not that Jones wins the job by default, he's the best man for the job also. He can beat man-coverage and stretch defenses. When he gets healthy in a couple of weeks, he'll start and never look back.
Cedric Peerman will have one 100-yard game
At some point, the Bengals need to see that Green-Ellis isn't good enough to carry the ball 300+ times a season. Cedric Peerman offers some speed and will eventually get a chance to display it. I don't think Peerman is the long-term answer, but he can provide a short-term spark.
Lawson will lose his starting spot before Maualuga
Lawson has been playing less and less each week and he doesn't offer much outside of playing strong-side linebacker; a dying position in today's NFL. He has already surrendered snaps to Dan Skuta and Dontay Moch. The writing is on the wall for Lawson.
Hawkins and Sanu will split slot snaps
Andrew Hawkins is visibly wearing down. You don't want to take him off of special teams because he's a key player. With Jay Gruden getting more comfortable with Mohamed Sanu, expect to see him starting taking some snaps at the expense of Hawkins in the slot. Sanu should start seeing more Red Zone opportunities as a bigger target for Dalton as well.
Andy Dalton will throw 10 interceptions in last 9 games
Dalton has thrown 10 interceptions in the first 7 games this season and he hasn't shown much, if any, progression to this point. With opportunistic defenses like Denver, Pittsburgh, Giants and Baltimore on the schedule, Dalton may end up putting Palmer-like numbers up for the Bengals.
Dre Kirkpatrick won't start one game this year
Having missed so much time already, along with the Bengals corners have played well so far this year, I expect Kirkpatrick to get some snaps at LCB in place of Newman during the season's second half. Newman has had his moments of both good and bad so far, but starting Kirkpatrick may not be an upgrade. For a defense that lacks a play-maker and needs more interceptions, Kirkpatrick wasn't known as that in college. He didn't record one interception last year at Alabama. He's more of a zone, press CB that isn't afraid to tackle. I wouldn't call him the secondary's savior.
A.J. Green will surpass 105 receptions and 1,550 yards
Before last week's game, Green was on pace for 114 receptions and 1,700 yards. So this isn't a bold prediction, but I do see the Bengals getting back to the ‘Feed Green' style of ball that dictated the offense through the first six weeks.
Bengals get revenge on Palmer; beat the Raiders
This game has to be the remaining hope for most Bengals fans. Just beat the Raiders. Not only would it be sweet for Andy Dalton to out-duel Carson Palmer in Paul Brown Stadium (Where Carson said he'd never step foot in again), beating the Raiders also makes the Bengals second round pick even higher in the draft order.
Bengals finish 2-4 in AFC North
Currently the Bengals are 1-3 in the AFC North with losses to all three rival teams and splitting the series with Cleveland. With games in Pittsburgh and against the Ravens, Cincinnati has a chance to claw back to even in the division and give them a chance at redeeming their early season woes. I think they missed that chance last week against the Steelers. They'll beat the Ravens week 17 in Marvin Lewis fashion to give us hope heading into next year.
Bengals finish season with 7-9 record and pick 13th
Speaking of next year, I don't think the Bengals make the playoffs and I'm sticking with my 7-9 prediction. In the end this offense isn't ready and the defense is in transition. With three draft picks in the top 45, the Bengals are aligned to fill holes and add much needed talent to both sides of the ball. 2013 remains their year to strike.