Boy, all of those offseason accolades for our Bengals seem far away now, don't they? First, we relayed how Evan Silva is lukewarm on the team, even calling them "overrated". Then he went on to say how he feels that Andy Dalton is due for a "Sophomore Slump" over Cam Newton. Yikes.
Now, this. On ESPN's "NFL Live" program, Marcellus Wiley and Damien Woody break down why they feel the Bengals will miss out on the playoffs in 2012. If you're wondering if Wiley is flip-flopping a bit, you're not headed to the "looney bin". Just a couple of months ago, Wiley said that he feels the Bengals would finish second in the division on "SportsCenter". Now he didn't go as far as to say that they would make the playoffs, but if you place a team finishing better than the Steelers in the division, one usually assumes that that's where a team is heading.
The breakdown of each former NFL'er is after the jump.
Woody, the former Jets and Patriots offensive lineman, points to the inexperience of the club and the way the team "will handle the success from last season". The other aspect that Woody touched on is the difficulty of the schedule this season--particularly after the bye week. The Bengals are staring at a potential easy start where they could amass quite a few wins, but they could hit a major skid in the second half of their schedule.
One excerpt from Woody's take:
"The one thing that I think about when you're trying to make the playoffs, is that you have to beat the teams in your division. Last year, the Bengals were swept by the Ravens and the Steelers, so if you're a team that's trying to make it, you have to beat the big boys on the block and I don't know if they're ready for the challenge quite yet."
It's a fair point and there's two schools of thought here. One of those would be in agreement with Woody, saying the the team's youth is going to bite them in the rear and that they're still a year away from making a major push. It's kind of in line with the 'they won't make the playoffs, because, well, they're the Bengals" argument.
The other is that the team and its leaders are a year older. The second-year players went through a lot last season and likely matured quite a bit as football players. They're seemingly improved on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as at cornerback and running back. The coaching staff remains intact and things are looking up. There's also no mention that the team's best player last season, A.J. Green, missed almost two full games against both Baltimore and Pittsburgh (one each). That likely won't be the case again in 2012, so the Bengals should put up quite a fight against their division foes.
Wiley, the former Bills, Chargers and Jaguars defensive end agreed with Woody on many of his points. Often critical of the Bengals, Wiley continued in his old ways by describing why he omitted them from the 2012 playoff picture:
"I see the Ravens winning this division, so that would leave them fighting for the Wild Card spot. ANd then you look at who's going to be fighting for that Wild Card and you have the Raiders, the Bills, the Jets all looking to fight for it. I see an improved Bengals, but how much have they improved themselves?"
Aside from questioning if BenJarvus Green-Ellis is truly a better option than Cedric Benson at running back, Wiley continued to point at the lack of an established No.2 wide receiver right now as a main worry for the club in 2012. Most fans would agree that it's definitely troubling, but they made it through inconsistent play opposite Green last year and now they have two solid slot options with the return of Jordan Shipley, as well as the arrival of rookie Mohamed Sanu. He's likely right that the Bengals will be in the mix for a playoff spot against those three other teams, but really, of the four, the Bills are the only team besides the Bengals who have made many steps to improve their football team.
While this is just analyst-speak in the slow period of the NFL calendar, it's important to note that the "Bengals aren't there yet sentiment" still exists out there. For all of the accolades and great reviews that the team has drawn this offseason, it isn't enough to have the pundits award them with high expectations for 2012. They will have to let their play on the field speak for them.
For the record, Jamison Hensley (who relayed the video on his ESPN AFC North blog), disagrees with both Wiley and Woody about the Bengals' playoff chances. He claims that they appear to be a better team "on paper" than the one that was fielded last season.