ESPN, by way of Scouts, Inc., is doing something interesting. They are going through each team's "go to" play.
With their three-receiver, single-back sets, the Bengals face a lot of 4-3 schemes with two deep safeties -- easy pickings for Carson Palmer. In this play, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (84) lines up in the right slot with Chad Johnson (85) flanking him. Palmer (9) takes a seven-step drop and locks in on Ocho Cinco running an out-and-up. This forces the safety to the perimeter, freeing Houshmandzadeh to run a curl against an LB. If Housh is covered, Palmer has TE Reggie Kelly (82) and WR Tab Perry (88) in single coverage on the left. It's really too easy.
ESPN's Power Rankings puts the Bengals at 11th. (See discussion about rankings below)
Experts: Mike McAllister, Tom Jackson, Scott Symmes, and the lovely Michele Tafoya. Everyone else, except for Merril Hoge picking Pittsburgh (shocking!) picked Baltimore to win the division. Mark Schlereth, Mike McAllister and Scouts Inc., project Carson Palmer winning the offensive Player of the Year.
Len Pasquarelli's preview on ESPN.com's preview says the same things most people have said. The offense can win the bulk of the games, but the defense must improve. KC Joyner says the Bengals led the NFL for most near-interceptions. Best-kept secret is T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Worst-kept secret is the tandem of Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson. Scout, Inc., gets into the Deep Throat business by allowing anonymity regarding the team's defensive tackles.
Peter King ranked the top-500 players. Note: And some people say I have too much time on my hands. Rankings, to me, other than a team's depth chart, are the most irrelevant thing that only prompt discussion. But how can you rank a left tackle with a cornerback? How can a quarterback be ranked in the same class as a safety? Of King's list, the Bengals, with his comments:
9. Carson Palmer - "Among NFL's most talented, least conceited"
48. Chad Johnson - "Total receiving yards last four years: 5,430"
57. Willie Anderson - "Road grader has 112 straight starts."
140. Rudi Johnson - "More yards last three years than Larry Johnson"
168. T.J. Houshmandzadeh - "Often Carson Palmer's favorite target."
192. Justin Smith - "Contract year; could have 13 sacks."
302. Levi Jones
322. Chris Henry
340. Leon Hall
352. Ahmad Brooks
357. Madieu Williams
381. Robert Geathers
401. Johnathan Joseph
449. Dexter Jackson
You saw that too? How is Ahmad Brooks 29 spots ahead of Robert Geathers, Johnathan Joseph and Dexter Jackson? Furthermore, how is Hall higher than Williams and Joseph? Anywho...
Chick Ludwig appears for Yahoo.com.