During the annual Sports Illustrated NFL Preview, which hits newsstands on Thursday, NFL Insider Peter King has the Cincinnati Bengals finishing second in the AFC North. The section with Cincinnati details Andy Dalton's relationship with A.J. Green, the quarterback's offseason work with the team's offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Leon Hall as an impact player.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Chen writes:
A once-dysfunctional franchise suddenly looks competent and well-run. Coming off a surprise playoff appearance, and with a talented young core in place, the Bengals have raised expectations in the city (ticket sales are up) and in the locker room (where players sport T-shirts boasting dno, as in destination: new orleans). Now comes the hard part.
Cincinnati hasn’t made back-to-back playoff appearances in 30 years and hasn’t won a postseason game since 1991, the longest current drought in the NFL. "For all the younger players, [making] the playoffs was an accomplishment," says Lewis, whose team was throttled by the Texans 31–10 in the wild-card round. "But we all remember how quiet it was on that flight back from Houston."
While Peter King practically gets his own magazine dedicated to his predictions, some of the crew at NFL.com made their preseason annual predictions earlier this week. Bucky Brooks and Adam Schein, both complimenting the A.J. Green and Andy Dalton combination, have Cincinnati finishing second in the AFC North. Steve Wyche drops them to third while Daniel Jeremiah has Cincinnati winning the AFC North title. Jeremiah writes:
The Bengals have quietly built an excellent football team. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green had great rookie seasons and both should be even better in 2012. The defense is loaded with athletes and should produce a lot of sacks and turnovers.
Any guesses on where Cleveland is ending up on preseason predictions? (Fifth place... the answer is fifth)