Take a walk through the Lady of the Woods' realm and then look into the Mirror of Galadriel (if you're already lost, go rent all three Lord of the Rings movies, watch them all in order three or four times and don't talk to me until you're finished). In it you will see things that were, things that are and things that have not yet come to pass.
If you were looking into the mirror and you happened to see that both the team's best offensive and best defensive players were lost for the 2013 season to injury, would you believe the Bengals could even have a chance.
First we have to identify who the best players are (it's not hard). The team's best offensive player, when it comes to pure talent and the biggest scoring threat, is obviously wide receiver A.J. Green. On defense, it's definitely defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
So, if the Bengals happened to lose both Atkins and Green in the preseason, which, for the record, would be the worst thing in the world, could the Bengals survive and make a playoff run, and which side of the ball would be effected more.
Green has been nothing short of spectacular in his two seasons in the league. He's a two-time Pro Bowl player and was also named as an All Pro once. He has caught 162 passes for 2,407 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first two years in the league and has proven to be an effective deep threat as well as a possession receiver when needed. The simple fact is, Green is one of the top three wide receivers in the league and he's just getting started.
If Green were to be lost for a season, the offense would lose over 1,000 yards in production in the passing game as well as at least eight touchdowns (from what we've seen) and possibly quite a bit more. What would be much worse, though, would be the team's utter lack of ability to move the ball down the field through the air. Green is Dalton's top option and without Green, defenses would be able to blanket the team's receivers, in their current state, and the entire offense would struggle badly.
Like Green, Atkins is in the top two or three players at his position. He's also a two-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All Pro. He's good against the run, but he's the best pass rushing defensive tackle in the league, apparent by the 12.5 sacks he racked up in 2012. Atkins, a fourth-round selection out of Georgia, also like Green, has made 116 tackles in his three-year career as well as 23 sacks. He is incredibly strong, able to bull rush defenders and shove them into the backfield, and deceptively quick, giving him the ability to go around them easily.
Atkins is the anchor of one of the league's most talented defensive lines and likely the one player on the line least likely to come out no matter the situation. While linebackers get the most attention as defensive leaders, Atkins is, without question, the Bengals' best defensive player.
Despite the fact that the strength of the team is their defense and Atkins is the team's best defensive player, losing Green would be a much bigger blow to the team as he is without question the team's biggest, and sometimes only, offensive threat. Losing him would cripple the team's ability to score on a consistent basis.
And of course, if they were to lose both Green and Atkins, I don't personally believe that the Bengals would have much of a chance of heading to the playoffs. Both players are too important to the team for them to be successful in the AFC North and beyond.
Do you think they could be successful? Who do you think is more important?