Unless you've resisted twitter, and judging by the comments this summer that might actually be a majority of you, there was a little hubbub about predictions being made at CBSSports.com. Obviously you know that Pete Prisco named the Bengals AFC North Champions, then AFC Champions, and then Super Bowl Champions.
Of the seven NFL experts at CBSSports.com predicting the 2013 season, five (Jason La Canfora, Prisco, Will Brinson, Josh Katzowitz, and John Breech) have the Bengals winning the AFC North -- Pat Kirwin and Ryan Wilson picked the Baltimore Ravens. All seven had the Bengals first or second in the AFC North -- three people had the Ravens in third place, and four had the Steelers in third. Three writers labeled Cincinnati as the AFC Champions (La Canfora, Prisco, Breech).
Kirwin offered more detailed reasoning, placing Cincinnati's chances at the feet of the team's quarterback.
The Bengals have been to the playoffs the past two seasons. A lot of people think this is the season they win the division and make a deep playoff run. They have quality depth on defense, a game-breaking wide receiver in A.J. Green and coaching stability. Ultimately, success depends on QB Andy Dalton. I like Cincinnati as a wild-card playoff unit, but scoring only 49 points in their final three games (16.3 points per game) will not get them very far.
Michael Silver with NFL.com predicts that the Bengals will win the AFC, in spite of Andy Dalton.
So yes, I realize that I'm asking many of you to take a leap of faith when I size up the ultra-talented Bengals as championship contenders, despite my lack of conviction that they have a championship quarterback. And to be fair, most of the people I've talked to inside the Bengals organization have no quarrel with that assessment, though they absolutely hope Dalton can prove all of us wrong.
Even the Canadians like the Bengals with TSN predicating that the Bengals claim first place, writing that "they just have to take care of January and early February."