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Bengals among NFL teams likeliest to go first-to-worst

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Cincinnati has claimed two division titles in the past five seasons, and look like the early favorite to claim the AFC North this year.

Justin K. Aller

The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off three straight playoff seasons, and have even been to the postseason in four of the past five seasons. In that span, Cincinnati has claimed two division titles, and look like the early favorite to claim the AFC North this year.

However, Aaron Schatz of ESPN and Football Outsiders isn't quite as high on the Bengals. He did a preseason list of the eight division winners from 2013 and ranked them based on their likelihood of going from first-to-worst in their own division.

Schatz had the Bengals with the third-likeliest odds (17%) to fall to the bottom of their division.

The Bengals have been a good-but-not-great team for three years, and they are probably going to be a good-but-not-great team again in 2014. What might knock them down to last place in the AFC North would be a major regression in team health. The Bengals finished third in our adjusted games lost metric last year, as they not only suffered few injuries that cost players games but also suffered few injuries that had guys on the injury report as "probable" or "questionable" and then playing at less than 100 percent.

On the other hand, the injuries the Bengals did have were to hugely important players, particularly Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. Our AGL metric does not account for importance of players lost to injury. The Bengals could suffer an average number of injuries this year, and -- as long as the injured players don't include Atkins, Hall, A.J. Green, Andrew Whitworth or Andy Dalton -- they'll be no worse off than they were in 2013.

Schatz had the Carolina Panthers (30%) and Indianapolis Colts (17.9%) as the only teams with bigger chances to fall to the bottoms of their respective divisions. Ironically, the Bengal play both of those teams early this season.