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Dear John Clayton. Sometimes You Just Can't Get Them All

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ESPN's John Clayton was asked if recent additions through free agency and the NFL draft has upped the Bengals defense to one of the league's elite.

A: Elite, no. Good, yes. What is lacking is a dominating defensive line. Antwan Odom did a nice job in the first half of last season rushing the passer, but he’s coming off an injury. Except for Tank Johnson, the Bengals lack size at defensive tackle. The exciting part of the defense is the play of their cornerbacks and the speed and tackling ability of their linebackers. To repeat, though, the Bengals must play better. The schedule will be tougher, and the Bengals can’t count on going 6-0 in divisional games like they did last season.

- John Clayton. May 30, 2010

I wonder if he predicted the Bengals would go 6-0 in the division this time last year.

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 averages 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.

- John Clayton. May 13, 2009