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Bengals 2016 win total projected by Football Outsiders

To no surprise, the Bengals are projected to have a winning record in 2016. However, the analysts at Football Outsiders project the Steelers to end up with more wins than the Bengals this coming season.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

How many games will the Bengals win in 2016?

If recent history is any indicator, it will be another winning season for a franchise that's become one of the three or four most stable teams in the ever-changing NFL. Few teams can claim the feat of five straight winning seasons and playoff berths the way Cincinnati can, so it only makes sense that analysts like those at Football Outsiders expect them to win 9+ games in 2016.

FO's most recent work at ESPN has the Bengals going 10-6 in 2016 in their projected win totals for all 32 teams. However, the team with the most wins in the AFC North, by their projections, ends up being the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here's what they wrote:

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 12-4 (11.8 mean wins; SOS: 23)

2. Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6 (9.8 mean wins; SOS: 20)

3. Baltimore Ravens: 10-6 (9.6 mean wins; SOS: 24)

4. Cleveland Browns: 4-12 (3.6 mean wins; SOS: 7)

We talk a lot about which NFL division is the best top to bottom, but no division can compete with the AFC North when it comes to "top to almost bottom" quality. Three AFC North teams made the postseason in 2014, and the same will happen in 2016 if the season plays out according to our mean projections.

We currently project Pittsburgh to be the best offense in the league, which makes a lot of sense considering they ranked third in offensive DVOA last year despite getting just 12 games out of Ben Roethlisberger and six out of Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers also have a strong, experienced offensive line that gets Maurkice Pouncey back from a missed season. The defense brings in some new blood with this year's top two picks (Artie Burns and Sean Davis) plus cornerback Senquez Golson, a 2015 second-rounder who missed his entire rookie year.

Cincinnati ranked No. 2 overall in DVOA last year, trailing only Seattle, but we project some regression on the offensive side of the ball. The Bengals were only an average offense by DVOA in 2013 and 2014 before leading the league last year, and the unit must overcome the loss of wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. Cincinnati also gets only seven home games this year because of a game in London.

I have a tough time seeing the Bengals and Ravens ending up with the same win total after the season the Ravens just had. Given, Baltimore has been a great franchise under John Harbaugh that's won a lot of games, but that was with guys like Torrey Smith, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata. All of those guys have either retired, moved on or moved past their prime, so expecting the Ravens to replicate the success those guys had without that caliber of players isn't realistic.

As for Pittsburgh, I can understand the prediction, but that doesn't mean it's accurate. The Bengals have a slightly harder schedule than the Steelers. One example is the Steelers hosting the Patriots, whereas the Bengals have to travel to Foxborough. Pittsburgh also hosts the Giants and Jets, two challenging opponents who the Bengals have to face on the road.

So while it's possible the Bengals are a better team than Pittsburgh this year, the schedule may allow for the Steelers to end up with more wins. That's why I wouldn't put much stock in this projected win total in terms of who the better teams are, but more who has the more favorable schedules. And, after all... it's only May!