With Super Bowl 50 now over, the 2015 NFL season is in the rear-view mirror as we look ahead to what 2016 has in store.
In addition to odds for the Super Bowl 51 favorites now out, we're also seeing an early round of power rankings put out for next season. It's still far too early to truly gauge what the NFL will look like next year until at least free agency and the draft have passed, but it is fun to see where the Cincinnati Bengals stand in the early rankings.
ESPN's early 2016 rankings have the Bengals still in the top 10, but only as the AFC's fourth-best team behind the New England Patriots (2), Denver Broncos (5) and Pittsburgh Steelers (6). The Carolina Panthers come in at the top spot, and rightfully so given they just made the Super Bowl and most of their roster should return next season.
Here's what ESPN said of the Bengals:
8. Cincinnati Bengals
2015 record: 12-4
Voting results: 547 points
Why they're here: The Bengals have great stability on the offensive side of the ball, one of the deepest rosters in the NFL -- with emerging depth along the offensive lines -- and a will have a healthy Andy Dalton returning with an arsenal of weapons after a breakthrough season. They've been to the postseason in five consecutive seasons and should have won a playoff game even with a backup at QB.
What could change: What had been a deep secondary could be a lot thinner with Leon Hall, Adam Jones, George Iloka, and Reggie Nelson all headed to free agency. The wide receiving corps could also be facing departures. Unless Dalton takes another step forward, are the Bengals better or merely running in place?
That seemed like a fair assessment and ranking of the Bengals, but the same cannot be said of the Sporting News. They have Cincinnati coming in at 12th overall in their post-Super Bowl rankings. Among the teams ahead of them include the Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Detroit Lions.
Are they really doomed to be the same ol' Bengals every year? They were too close to breaking their drought this time, and if Andy Dalton had played against the Steelers, they might have. They'll miss Hue Jackson running the offense, but the talent is there. Have they learned their lesson, and developed some poise?
That's pretty blasphemous for even the most anti-Bengal person to do in ranking the likes of Detroit (7-9 this past season) ahead of them. Then again, until the Bengals win a playoff game, they're not going to get much respect from the national media. Until that happens, people are going to be hesitant to rank the Bengals any higher than that 8-12 range in their early 2016 rankings.
Where do you think the Bengals should come in for the early 2016 NFL power rankings? Personally, I think the 6-8 range is where they should be heading into free agency.