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James Walker picks the Bengals as 2009 sleepers, Clayton calls them possible surprise

So my new best friend James Walker is talking up the Bengals. I think my new best friend started reading this blog and saw that several aspects of this team, that if they come together, could be a very strong team in 2009. My new best friend joined a discussion about sleeper teams with a Scouts Inc writer. His? Considering that this is a blog about a certain Queen City football team, I'll give you a clue. The team my new best friend is talking up starts with the letter Bengals.

...Cincinnati's defense is sneaky good. The Bengals finished No. 12 in the NFL defensively in 2008 during a season when the offense couldn't stay on the field or score points. Consider new additions such as defensive tackle Tank Johnson, rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga and veteran safety Roy Williams, and Cincinnati's D has the potential to crack the top 10 for the first time since 2001.

He goes into battle with Matt Williamson, who picked the Seattle Seahawks as his sleeper team next season, concluding that "Cincinnati's quarterback and defense giving the Bengals a better chance to succeed" of the two teams. Hey, it's something.

My new best friend. Real man of genius. James Walker.

John Clayton, another new best friend, started talking about the Bengals being another surprised team.

3. Cincinnati Bengals: For all the Bengals fans who complained in my mailbag about my not including the team in last week's top 10 offseasons, take heart. The Bengals will rise this year because of the return of Carson Palmer. The schedule should work for a four-game improvement. Going from a .553 strength of schedule to a .465 projected SOS helps. The Bengals face the AFC West and NFC North. A Palmer-led offense usually averaged between 23.0 and 26.0 points a game. Last season, Palmer was sidelined most of the season and the Bengals averaged 12.8 points per game. Put me in for at least a four-game improvement based on my formulas. That could put the Bengals, 4-11-1 last season, near .500 in 2009. Their problem is the AFC North. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are better teams at the moment.

In another piece, James Walker listed Chad Johnson as an honorable mention on the topic of "vet on the hot seat".

The Enquirer's Shannon Russell gives us an update on Reggie Williams, who nearly had his right leg amputated "because of extensive knee damage and infection. The knee has now stabilized. The crutches are gone. The imminent danger has passed." Good news.

Since arriving in Cincinnati, Antwan Odom has been working hard at gaining strength and weight.

Back in March '07, his $6 million per year check might have weighed more than his 246 pounds. But after reaching as high as 260 and leaving last December at 253, Odom says he's packing 286 and feels stronger and recharged.

"You're looking at a year-long progression in the offseason, in season, and in this offseason," Morton said. "It's textbook when you look at the numbers."

Among the numbers is a steady rise in his bench press even though Odom missed four games with a separated shoulder in the second half of the season. He began the season bench-pressing 275 pounds five times and ended it doing 295 four times. Now he's doing 315 pounds five times even though he tore the same shoulder a few times in college.