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ESPN NFL Power Rankings remain high on Bengals

ESPN is still high on the Bengals as we approach the 2016 season, despite losing several key players to injury during training camp.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the preseason in full swing, NFL power rankings are beginning to carry more weight than they did for most of the offseason.

Now that we're able to see all 32 teams in action, it's getting easier to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Though, it is just the preseason and nothing will matter that happened in August once September rolls around.

Few are questioning the Bengals as being contenders in 2016, but their onslaught of injuries has them trending downward.

You just can't lose guys like William Jackson III, Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, Cedric Ogbuehi, Darqeuze Dennard, and possibly Brandon LaFell to injury, and expect to not take at least a slight step back.

Despite all of this, ESPN is still very high on the Bengals. In their most recent power rankings, ESPN has Cincinnati coming in as the seventh-best team.

7. Cincinnati Bengals

2015 record: 12-4

Post-draft ranking: No. 7

The Bengals, of all teams, have been a model of consistency under coach Marvin Lewis and QB Andy Dalton. They have made the playoffs in five straight seasons ... and they've lost in the first round in five straight seasons.

Even with all of the Bengals' losses, the fact is the rest of the AFC suffered major losses as well. The Broncos are the defending Super Bowl champs, but they lost so many key players that few seem to doubt the Bengals being the better team now.

The two teams ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC — Pittsburgh at No. 6 and New England at No. 3 — arguably lost more than they gained this year. All of this would seemingly have the Bengals in good position to make a run at winning the AFC and getting to the Super Bowl.

The real question will be can they overcome all of these injuries and avoid a slow start during a brutal first half of their regular-season schedule.

If they can just make it to their bye week with a winning record — even if it's just by a game or two — they'll be in good shape to make it to the playoffs.

Here is a look at the full ESPN power rankings heading into the second week of the preseason:

1. Seattle Seahawks

2. Arizona Cardinals

3. New England Patriots

4. Green Bay Packers

5. Carolina Panthers

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Cincinnati Bengals

8. Denver Broncos

9. Kansas City Chiefs

10. Minnesota Vikings

11. Oakland Raiders

12. Baltimore Ravens

13. Dallas Cowboys

14. Indianapolis Colts

15. New York Jets

16. Houston Texans

17. New York Giants

18. Washington Redskins

19. Atlanta Falcons

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

21. Chicago Bears

22. New Orleans Saints

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24. Buffalo Bills

25. Philadelphia Eagles

26. Miami Dolphins

27. Detroit Lions

28. San Diego Chargers

29. Los Angeles Rams

30. Tennessee Titans

31. Cleveland Browns

32. San Francisco 49ers