The Cincinnati Bengals have been privy to an abundance of offseason accolades this year. They added key pieces in free agency and nailed the draft, making pundits believe that the team is poised to make a playoff run for the second straight season. The talent and character seems to be there, but there are other factors that leave doubts. For instance, the Bengals have never strung back-to-back winning season under Marvin Lewis, nor have they achieved that feat in thirty years.
Another reluctance to crown the Bengals as true contenders are the oddsmakers in Las Vegas. As we reported a few months ago, the team is currently set at forty to one odds at winning next year's Super Bowl. As Joe Fortenbaugh at The National Football Post reports, more lukewarm feelings about the Bengals are emerging out of the desert.
So why the lack of love for the Bengals? Dalton and fellow rookie breakout star A.J. Green enter 2012 having gained invaluable experience last season and the incoming draft class was given an "A"—one of only four awarded—by the experts over at NFL.com. Shouldn’t the expectations for Cincinnati be a bit higher?
Let’s start in Las Vegas and abroad, where the recently posted NFL season win totals give the impression that the Bengals will be nothing more than a .500 team in 2012:
Throw in the fact that Sportsbook.ag has the Bengals listed at 40/1 to win the Super Bowl (odds that have 16 teams posted ahead of Cincinnati) and you get the distinct impression that oddsmakers across the globe think the Bengals could actually be headed for a step in the wrong direction.
It makes you wonder if these odds are more of a result of revisionist history and the old, vague reasoning of "because it's the Bengals", as to why the oddsmakers went this route. As Fortenbaugh notes, the Bengals schedule isn't that much tougher in 2012, where their opponents have a combined seven more wins over the teams that they faced last year. With what seems like a vastly improved roster, it's puzzling as to why the odds aren't more in their favor.
Furthermore, the specific Bengals game lines have been released:
Breaking the regular season schedule down further, Cantor Gaming’s lines for Weeks 1-16 have the Bengals posted as a favorite six times, as a dog seven times and as a pick twice.
Week 1: +7 at Baltimore
Week 2: -7 vs. Cleveland
Week 3: +1.5 at Washington
Week 4: -2.5 at Jacksonville
Week 5: -2.5 vs. Miami
Week 6: -2 at Cleveland
Week 7: +1.5 vs. Pittsburgh
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: pick vs. Denver
Week 10: pick vs. New York Giants
Week 11: +2.5 at Kansas City
Week 12: -4.5 vs. Oakland
Week 13: +5.5 at San Diego
Week 14: -1 vs. Dallas
Week 15: +7 at Philadelphia
Week 16: +6 at Pittsburgh
Week 17: vs. Baltimore (no line posted)
Really, it just seems that it's a matter of the team not being able to "get over the hump" and be consistent winners under Lewis' reign as head coach. They have been notorious for taking two steps forward and one step back, and it's an unfortunate truth that some believe that the 2012 season could mirror the disastrous 2010 one. That's not to say that these odds are unfair, as really most project the team just having one or two fewer wins this season.
It just seems as if it's yet another example of disrespect towards the expectations of the club in 2012. There's no doubt that they've earned this type of skepticism over the years, but optimism is at a high right now and we'll have to wait until the fall to see which one of those opinions wins out. You had better go place your bets.