The NFL season is drawing closer, but not quite close enough for those of us who are itching for Bengals' football to be back. With exactly 100 days left until the start of the 2016 NFL season as of Tuesday, ESPN released 100 predictions for teams across the NFL, and the Bengals made appearances with two somewhat bold predictions.
If this first prediction is accurate, it will be great news for the Bengals' ability to improve from last year's 12-4 finish. Losing a heart and soul player like Vontaze Burfict to a suspension for the first three games of the season looks pretty ominous at first glance, but ESPN's Coley Harvey doesn't think it will make much of a difference.
18. LB Vontaze Burfict's three-game suspension at the start of the season will have a minimal impact on the Bengals' defense. If anything, his Week 4 return will serve as jolt for the Bengals as they work through a tough early season stretch. -- Coley Harvey
To an extent, it is pretty hard to argue with this logic. The presence of Karlos Dansby should be enough to temporarily stabilize the Bengals' linebacker corps, allowing players like Paul Dawson and Vincent Rey to focus on making an impact, rather than simply adjusting for Burfict's absence.
Getting Burfict back in Week 4 should be a huge boost to the Bengals' defense, but the first three games might be some of the most important of the season for the team. Weeks 2 and 3 are especially critical as the Bengals travel to Pittsburgh in Week 2 and host the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in Week 3. His return might provide a spark for the Bengals' defense, but the fact that the schedule really calms down quite a bit after Week 3 could have just as much of an impact, making it hard to tell which one was more important.
To be fair, the Bengals' defense knows how to function without Burfict. He missed 10 games in 2014 due to varying injuries and the first six games of 2015 while still recovering. Getting him back was certainly helpful, but saying that his three game suspension will have a minimal impact should to be pretty close to the truth. We'll have to see what happens, but chances are, the worst-case scenario is that his absence provides a temporary annoyance in a stretch where the Bengals really need to be at their best.
One of the biggest Bengals storylines of the offseason, the wide receiver dilemma, is next among ESPN's list of predictions that include the Bengals. The Bengals lost No. 2 and No. 3 receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to free agency this offseason. That leaves the position wide open behind A.J. Green. Who will step up in their place? Harvey pitched one idea.
73. As the Bengals look for a complement to top receiver A.J. Green, expect 2015 practice squad WR Jake Kumerow to get a lot of action this summer. He and rookie Tyler Boyd will be heavily used in the preseason. -- Coley Harvey
As convenient as it is to say that Jake Kumerow will be afforded opportunities after a rough offseason opened up room at wide receiver seems a bit short-sighted. Yes, he has received high praise from Bengals fans and the coaching staff alike, but, he's still a relative unknown with a ton of competition at his position.
Does it really make sense to say Kumerow will be given more work than talented players, with more experience, like Brandon LaFell or James Wright? I don't have any doubt in my mind that he is liked by the Bengals and deserves more opportunities to prove himself, but, he has a lot of work to do to stand out in the receiver group.