With the 2015 NFL season upon us, now is the time we're seeing many experts make their 'bold predictions' for the upcoming season.
For the Bengals, there's a variety of directions in which these so-called experts are going with Cincinnati. From winning a playoff game, to AJ McCarron starting games, to Cincinnati missing the postseason altogether, there have been some interesting takes on the Bengals as they look for their fifth-straight playoff appearance.
At NFL.com, Marc Sessler is predicting Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton throws more touchdowns than All-Pro signal-caller Peyton Manning:
I'm no Andy Dalton fan, but I love the talented Bengals offense. With a loaded backfield and A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and a healthy Marvin Jones in tow, Cincy's starting quarterback has no more excuses. He'll toss his share of drive-crushing picks, but Dalton is two years removed from a 33-touchdown campaign. This prediction, though, is more about Manning, who is months away from turning 40. Yes, Denver's quarterback is one of the greatest signal-callers in NFL history, but age-old passers tap out quick. Brett Favre's final season saw him throw just 11 touchdowns over 13 starts. Manning's a legend, but this season will mark the end.
I actually think there's a decent chance of this happening, but not because Dalton has the ability to throw more touchdowns than Manning during a 16-game season. At age 39, I think there's a good chance we see Manning miss several games due to injury. The body simply isn't meant to hold up over a full NFL season with a guy like Manning already having the kind of wear and tear he has.
NFL.com's Chris Wesseling took a much-different approach by picking backup AJ McCarron to "make at least one start before taking over Bengals' O in '16."
This organization isn't known for bold strokes, but patience is wearing thin with Andy Dalton's penchant for face-planting in big games. Stuck in quarterback purgatory with Dalton, the coaching staff believes McCarron is "fully capable of becoming a starting-quality player," NFL Media's Albert Breer reported in June. McCarron made three impressive throws in the third preseason game that we simply don't see in Dalton's repertoire. Armed with the most loaded offense of his tenure in Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis can turn to McCarron if necessary, knowing that Dalton's six-year, $96 million contract is essentially a year-to-year proposal with an escape clause available next offseason.
Don Banks at Sports Illustrated took a similar approach by predicting the Bengals to miss the playoffs while Dalton gets benched in favor of McCarron, who makes his starting debut in Week 8 at Pittsburgh...
Uh, no Don. The only realistic scenario in which McCarron starts this year is if the Bengals are well out of the playoff race in the final month, Dalton is having a terrible year, and the Bengals want to give McCarron a start against the Ravens in the regular-season finale. And, even that's a serious longshot.
Over at Fox Sports, Peter Schrager is one of the few experts who's actually high on the Bengals. He has them winning the AFC North and defeating the Bills in the wild-card round to earn their first playoff win since 1991.