The Cincinnati Bengals will open the season with the "Battle of Ohio" in Cleveland against the Browns on Sunday. Even though the Browns are favored to win Sunday's game by seven points, I'm not fully convinced that the Bengals will lose the game. Yes they will be coming into the game with a rookie quarterback, a rookie No. 1 wide receiver, a rookie offensive coordinator and they missed a large amount of practices in the offseason thanks to the lockout.
Yeah, things might not go very well. But I think the Bengals will leave Cleveland with a 1-0 record.
|5: Cedric Benson Against a Young Defensive Line|
Benson is going to have a fun year in 2011 and the fun is going to start on a high note. Because of Dalton's inexperience, the Bengals offense will likely rely on Benson's ability to carry the ball between the tackle 25 times a game to move the ball down the field. He'll be running against a defensive line that will be starting two rookies in defensive tackle Phillip Taylor and defensive end Jabaal Sheard. Behind fullback Chris Pressley, Benson could have a big game on the ground, helping the Bengals put some points up on the board.
|4: An Offensive Line Built to Run the Ball|
Along those same lines, the Bengals offensive line in built to open up running lanes for the backs. They may not be the best unit in the league at protecting the passer but they are good at making sure the running backs have a hole that you could drive a car through. With Andrew Whitworth on the left side and Andre Smith on the right, the Browns will need to stack the box to stop Benson from racking up the yards on the ground.
|3: Peyton Hillis, Meet Rey Maualuga|
Don't get me wrong, I have always liked Dhani Jones and if the Bengals had re-signed him, I wouldn't have been too terribly upset. However, Rey Maualuga's move to middle linebacker could turn out to be a big move for this defense. Maualuga is a natural middle linebacker. Even though he played well at outside linebacker, Maualuga could have a breakout year in the middle. He has a nose for the ball and finds himself in the right place at the right time, especially when playing against a run heavy team, like the Browns. He may not be the best linebacker in pass coverage, but he could personally be the difference between Peyton Hillis having a great game and Peyton Hillis having a bad game.
|2: Talented Secondary Against a Mediocre Group of Receivers|
Not to say that the Browns' receiving corps is terrible, because they're not. They just aren't a top group in the league and they don't really have a clear No. 1 wide receiver. They don't have an A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley or a Jermaine Gresham. Luckily for the Bengals secondary, they go up against a very talented group of receivers in practice. Leon Hall is one of the League's better cornerbacks and as long as they stay healthy, Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson can be very effective. Even though the Bengals lost Johnathan Joseph to the Texans, Nate Clements is perfectly capable of holding his own. If the pass rush is effective, the Bengals' secondary could clean up on Sunday.
|1: Kevin Huber|
I know, a punter. Here's the think, though. In a game that will likely be low scoring a depend heavily on who has the ball the longest and whose defense gets the most stops, a punter can be a huge difference. We all watched Kevin Huber kick a 77-yard punt in the preseason against the Jets. He may not be able to do that every time he kicks the ball, but he has the potential to do it if he needs to. If the Bengals have a tough time moving the ball, and that could possibly be the case, they could avoid losing the field position game because of Huber and his nuclear-powered foot. And even though that's a small thing, it could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Why do you think the Bengals will win on Sunday?