CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 16: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after a touchdown during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won 27-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
A few weeks ago, ESPN revealed one of the first NFL offseason power rankings lists of the young 2012 season. When that list came out, it was a few weeks after the free agency period started and the Bengals weren't all that active at that point. We stumbled upon another power rankings list put out by Elliott Harrison at www.nfl.com and unfortunately, there isn't much of a difference in the national perception of the team's 2012 outlook.
Like the folks at ESPN, Harrison has the Bengals coming in at No.19 again, saying:
Cincy is going to play the NFL's version of moneyball this season. Run the football with a guy who doesn't fumble (The Law Firm), start a quarterback who isn't careless with the football (Red Dalton) and play solid team defense (seventh in NFL last season.)
By this description, it's difficult to find the negative aspects that would pin the the Bengals so far down the list after a playoff run in 2011. It seems that two common stigmas that have hung around the team are haunting them in this offseason: the prior year's "easy schedule" and that the fact that the team hasn't strung back-to-back winning seasons in three decades. They've made some moves and improvements in free agency and are looking to really bolster their roster in the draft.
The interesting thing about these rankings is in who Harrison has listed in front of the Bengals. Underachieving 2011 squads like the Chiefs, Raiders, Seahawks, and Bears all come in ahead of Cincinnati. The Titans, who the Bengals beat last season, came in four spots ahead of Cincinnati. As for the other AFC North squads, Cleveland came in at No.29, Pittsburgh at No.14, and Baltimore at No.6.
Again, these offseason power rankings don't really mean all that much at the present time, though they are perpetuating the national media's seemingly endless cycle of disrespect of the Bengals. If fans are to take solace in anything, it's that the team is flying under the radar unlike the 2010 season that followed the 2009 playoff campaign.