NFL.com's 2012 Preseason Power Rankings

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 11: Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals talks to players during a rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium on May 11, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

It's that time of year again. Time for analysts to predict how they think that teams will fare as we are on the eve of Training Camp. Often, we look back after the season is finished and laugh at some of the teams that were predicted to either fare well or poorly. But, there are some accuracies in these predictions as well and they are fun to review.

By now, Bengals fans should be used to the "middle of the pack" rankings that they've been receiving this offseason. Though they drafted well once again and improved their roster overall, analysts point to their division and a more difficult schedule as the reasons why the team won't have a much better record than they did in 2011. CBSSports' Pete Prisco is the one notable exception that we've found.

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has released his version of power rankings, where team's aren't placed in numerical order, but rather grouped in a tiered system.

There are six groups that Rosenthal groups teams into: "Top Shelf", "Next Level", "Contenders", "Not Sold", "Searching For Mediocrity", and "Bottom-Feeders". Where did the Bengals rank here? You guessed it--right in the middle in the "Contenders" group.

Contenders: San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks

We tried to whittle this tier down, but it didn't make sense in August. Teams are more alike than different in the NFL, especially before the season starts...

The rest of this tier could be elite if everything falls right, but the teams have enough holes possibly to struggle with reaching .500.

It's an interesting group here. The 49ers had an outstanding 2011 season and not much has seemed to have changed with their roster--at least not for the negative. The Bengals and Lions were pleasant surprises last season, yet the Panthers had four less wins than Cincinnati last year. Rosenthal does make an accurate observation that the teams in this group could be fighting to get to 8-8, or they could put everything together and make a deep playoff run.

As for the rest of the AFC North, predictably the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers both were grouped in the "Top Shelf" category with the Mew England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. Almost as predictable, the Cleveland Browns are placed in the "Bottom Feeders" group.

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