The new season is finally here for the Bengals. As they get set to face the Jets on Sunday, we're left to pass the time with season previews and various rankings of all 32 NFL teams.
Good news: ESPN did both in one article for the Bengals, who they rank at No. 7 in their Week 1 NFL Power Rankings. They also broke down why the Bengals will and will not make the playoffs for a sixth-straight season.
Here is why Cincinnati is postseason bound:
The Bengals have made the playoffs every year since 2011, and they’ve been a model of consistency in several areas. Quarterback Andy Dalton was having his best year before he got hurt last season; they re-signed A.J. Green, one of the best receivers in the league; and they return a solid defensive line led by Geno Atkins, considered by many one of the best defenders in the NFL. Sure, the team hasn’t been able to win in the playoffs, but they’ve had no problem getting there.
And here is why the playoff streak ends this season:
Playoff streaks have got to end sometime, right? At this point, the postseason woes might just be mental. The Bengals will be without starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict for three games, which isn’t good when they’ve got their division rival in the Steelers coming up in Week 2.
Their early schedule doesn’t do them any favors, and they get the pleasure of traveling to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to face the Patriots in Week 6 -- quarterback Tom Brady’s first home game back from suspension. The Bengals also have issues at wide receiver beyond A.J. Green and a host of injuries piling up.
They also have to figure out life without offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who is now the head coach of the Browns.
At the end of the day, there are more logical reasons why the Bengals will make the playoffs than why they won't, between a strong offensive line, a top-15 quarterback, arguably the best defensive line in football, and most of last year's 12-4 squad back in the fold.
But you cannot overlook the loss of Hue Jackson, Tyler Eifert being out with an ankle injury, Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall leaving the secondary, razor-thin depth at defensive end, and issues lingering at right tackle. It's hard to see the Bengals not winning at least nine games, but we've seen plenty of nine and 10-win teams miss out on the playoffs before.
Speaking of, ESPN's advanced analytical service, FPI, projected the Bengals to win 9.1 games in 2016, meaning they expect Cincinnati to go 9-7 this year. They also projected the Bengals’ percentage chance to win each game:
Sept. 11 @ N.Y. Jets: 47.8
Sept. 18 @ Pittsburgh: 37.1
Sept. 25 vs. Denver: 58.6
Sept. 29 vs. Miami: 72.0
Oct. 9 @ Dallas: 59.7
Oct. 16 @ New England: 31.7
Oct. 23 vs. Browns: 81.7
Oct. 30 vs. Washington: 60.9
Nov. 14 @ N.Y. Giants: 55.3
Nov. 20 vs. Buffalo: 60.2
Nov. 27 @ Baltimore: 45.3
Dec. 4 vs. Philadelphia: 74.1
Dec. 11 @ Cleveland: 63.5
Dec. 18 vs. Pittsburgh: 54.8
Dec. 24 @ Houston: 44.8
Jan. 1 vs. Baltimore: 64.1
FPI also gave the Bengals 52.2-percent chance to make the playoffs, even though, based on their early-season projection, they expect the Bengals to lose their first two games. An 0-2 start is often fatal for an NFL team's hopes of making it to the playoffs, but the Bengals certainly have the firepower to overcome a slow start.
Do you agree with this ranking and the projected win total for the Bengals?