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Top 5 Reasons the Bengals Could be Back in the Playoffs Next Season

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If you're like me then you have a love-hate relationship with the NFL playoffs this year. You love them because it's the playoffs. You hate them because the Bengals aren't in them. I love football, especially playoff football, but there's something missing this season. My favorite team.

Oh well, what can we expect? After finishing the season with a 4-12 record, we can't ask the Bengals to do anything other than get healthy and watch the playoffs themselves so they can see what winning teams do to find themselves playing in the post season. They shouldn't lose faith, though, and either should you. I personally believe, even though their record doesn't show it, that they're a lot closer to having a very good team than you may think. Here's the five reasons the Bengals can easily find themselves in the 2011-2012 playoffs. After all, that will be their last chance before the world ends.

Reason 5: 2011 is an Odd Year

2007 -- odd year -- 7-9 record

2008 -- even year -- 4-11-1 record

2009 -- odd year -- 10-6 record

2010 -- even year -- 4-12 record

2011 -- odd year -- ??????

If you go beyond 2007, you'll see that the Bengals finished the 2006 season, an even year, with an 8-8 record so that pretty much destroys any conspiracy theory about the Bengals being bi-annually good. Besides, a 2007 record of 7-9 isn't that good anyway.

However, considering the fact that the Bengals have been on a three year roller coaster in which they were bad in '08, good in '09 and bad again in '10, somebody could make the case that the Bengals are beginning a tradition in which they are good on odd years and bad on even ones. If that is the case, and I'm not saying it is, then the Bengals should be good next season.

Okay. That one is admittedly weak, but bear with me. We're only getting started.

Reason 4: The 2011 NFL Draft

I don't want to jinx whatever has been happening in the last couple draft classes that the Bengals have brought back to Cincinnati, but they've been pretty awesome. The 2009 Bengals draft produced Rey Maualuga, Michael Johnson, Kevin Huber, Morgan Trent, Chase Coffman and Bernard Scott. Of course it also brought the Andre Smith situation to the Queen City but you win some, you lose some. Then, a year later, the Bengals grabbed Jermaine Gresham, Carlos Dunlap, Jordan Shipley, Geno Atkins, Roddrick Muckelroy and Brandon Ghee. I'm not rocket scientist but those are two pretty talented and productive draft classes.

Now, if the Bengals keep with this trend, they may draft Batman, Super Man, Wolverine, the Predator, Blade, Legolas from Lord of the Rings (he can probably play wide receiver) and Darth Vader this year. With that level of talent, we can't lose!

Seriously, though, the Bengals have added some great talent on both sides of the ball in the last two seasons via the NFL draft and with a No. 4 overall pick this year, they have a chance to add even more talent. If they have a draft class this year that is similar to the last two seasons, they can add some players that have an immediate impact on the football field and help the Bengals back into the playoffs.

Reason 3: An Off Season of Experience

The few bright spots that existed for the Bengals in the 2010 season were mostly comprised of rookies. Jermaine Gresham, Jordan Shipley, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap made an immediate impact for the Bengals on both sides of the ball. Gresham broke the Bengals record by a rookie tight end that was held by Tony McGee. Shipley was tied with Gresham with the third most receptions by a rookie receiver (52). Dunlap broke the Bengals rookie sack record with 9.5 sacks that was held by Justin Smith and Atkins was impressive, adding three sacks of his own and was good at pressuring the quarterback from the middle of the line.

Now, imagine how much better these four guys can be with a season under their belts and an off season of work outs with the team. On top of that, the Bengals have Maualuga and Johnson in the same situation on defense and Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson on offense. I'm especially excited to see what Simpson can bring to the table after his two game explosion at the end of the season.

If these players show up and produce better than they did in the 2010 season because of the natural progression that an NFL player makes, the Bengals could have some extremely productive young guys on both sides of the ball.

Reason 2: An Easier Schedule

The Bengals kick-to-the-groin-machine that was the 2010 regular season schedule was a who's who of former Super Bowl and conference champions. They started off with the Patriots, who is likely the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl this season. Then they went to Baltimore, who just demolished the AFC West champions, the Kansas City Cheifs. They won that game. Three weeks later, they went to Atlanta and barely lost to the No. 1 team in the NFC. Two weeks later they played the Pittsburgh Steelers, the No. 2 team in the AFC. The next week they lost to the Colts who were the Super Bowl runners-up in 2009 and are back in the playoffs again this year. Two weeks later they lost to the New York Jets on Thanksgiving; the Jets lost in the AFC Championship game last season and are in the playoffs again. The next week they lost to the defending Super Bowl champions, the New Orleans Saints. Then they played the Steelers again and finally, after knocking the Chargers out of the playoffs, the Bengals finished their horrible schedule with a loss against Baltimore.

Wow.

The 2011 NFL schedule isn't officially out yet but their list of opponents is. Obviously anything would be easier than their 2010 schedule but their 2011 schedule is a million times easier. On the road, other than their division rivals, the Bengals don't tavel to a single city where a playoff team from this season resides other than Seattle (and they went 7-9 in the worst conference in the NFL). At home the Bengals are just as lucky. No playoff team will travel to Cincinnati other than the Colts. Other than that, the Bengals play teams like the Cardinals, 49ers, Bills, Jaguars, Rams and Broncos.

Reason 1: Marvin Lewis

I know that many of you won't agree with me, but I think one of the biggest reasons that the Bengals could easily find themselves in the playoffs next season is that Marvin Lewis will remain their head coach. Lewis has created a winning atmosphere in Cincinnati and the fact that we're all upset with a 4-12 season is in itself a victory when you think about the '90s when a 4-12 season would just be normal.

Lewis knows what the Bengals need to do to win and if he was given some more control over the decisions made about the team (which remains to be seen), he could help the Bengals make the playoffs. I personally think that re-signing Lewis as the head coach was Mike Brown's first step to putting a successful Bengals team on the field next season. There are a few steps between that and the draft that need to be addressed but I'm not going to get into them; you already know what they are. COUGH offensive coordinator COUGH.

So, Bengals fans, don't abandon hope quite yet. Yes, 2010 was a terrible year for any football fan in Cincinnati but the 5 reasons listed above could be why I don't have to struggle for content at this time next year. Instead, I could be writing about the Bengals next playoff match up. Let's hope that I'm right.