The 2016 season begins tomorrow for the Bengals, but before it does, we gathered our staff for one last look at our predictions heading into the season. It seems we’re a rather confident group with everyone surveyed agreeing the Bengals will return to the playoffs in 2016. But, our opinions on how the Bengals will get there vary. Share your season predictions in the comments!
I think the Bengals finish 12-4, are the AFC North champions, and the top seed in the AFC. I kind of went above and beyond, and predicted a bunch of other stuff too, just because...
Andy Dalton: 3,900 yards, 35 TDs, 14 INTs
Jeremy Hill: 970 yards, 8 rushing TDs
Giovani Bernard: 750 yards rushing, 475 yards rec, 7 total TDs
A.J. Green: 90 rec, 1,350 yards, 10 TDs
Tyler EIfert: 56 rec, 710 yards, 9 TDs
Mike Nugent: 23 for 29 on field goals
Surprise on offense: Russell Bodine takes a huge step forward, becoming a "league average" center.
Surprise on defense: Dre Kirkpatrick emerges as the top defensive back on the Bengals, making the Pro Bowl.
I think the Bengals will be a three seed in the AFC with a 12-4 record. Tyler Boyd will be the most productive Bengals rookie receiver in the last 20 years who isn't named A.J. Green. I also think Andy Dalton will be a finalist for MVP this season and Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill will each have 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
I'm thinking the Bengals go around 10-6 and win the AFC North, earning the third or fourth seed in the playoffs. I'm really feeling a Jeremy Hill resurgence, and I think Tyler Eifert will remain dominant when he returns from injury. If Vontaze Burfict can stay healthy, the Bengals could boast the best run defense in the NFL.
Based on every season that the Bengals have had in the Dalton-Green era so far, I'm thinking 11-5 makes the most sense for this season. With so many personnel changes this offseason, I can't see the team avoiding any kind of step back. But, the way they played in the preseason, I still think the starters will go out there and have far more good games than bad. The Bengals were 9-7 in 2011, 10-6 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013, lost a lot of personnel and regressed to 10-5-1 in 2014, and went back to improving with a 12-4 record in 2015. I think there's no reason to think they won't stay on that same track. They'll make it to the playoffs, probably as division champions, with the No. 3 seed, again.
Maybe I've been following this team too long and have grown uber-cynical with everything I've seen over the years, but I think this is a tough season for the Bengals--especially with the insane amount of injuries they have amassed so far.
If Thursday night and the preseason finale taught us anything, it's that the first three games on the Bengals' schedule this year will be tough. And, with those three games being in the AFC, including one in the division, they need to win more than they lose to start the year off on a good foot.
The other thing that concerns me is how many of the current unknowns on the roster need to contribute to the level the team and fans hope for in order for the Bengals to once again make the postseason. Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell will need to be reliable and productive, Tyler Eifert needs to not have any setbacks and come back to his 2015 form, and the rotational defensive linemen need to step up in a big way.
All of that said, this is still too talented of a team to have a poor year, even with the roster questions and somewhat-difficult schedule. Barring further injuries to key players, I'll conservatively say 9-7 or 10-6 with a playoff berth.
Until the Bengals give us a reason to not believe in them, you have to think they’re going to make it back to the playoffs once again in 2016. Five straight playoff berths isn’t easy and six straight could prove even tougher, still, I see the Bengals securing no less than 9 wins and returning to the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Winning the AFC North will likely require no less than 10 wins, and while right now I could predict 10 wins on the schedule, I’m not fully confident that will become a reality.
To claim the division, the Bengals will need to win tough games, including some primetime games. It’s possible and maybe even probable, but, I wouldn’t bet on it today. Once back in the playoffs, I see this being the season for a playoff win, which will make not winning the division an irrelevant and distant memory come mid-January when the Bengals are game planning for the Divisional Round of the playoffs and then continuing on from there, too.