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ESPN NFL expert: Bengals ranked too low in power rankings

The Bengals are ranked 23rd in ESPN’s latest power ranking but ESPN’s Mike Clay makes the case for why he’d rank Cincinnati much more favorably.

The latest round of NFL power rankings around the internet haven’t been all that kind to the Bengals. That’s somewhat warranted after a 6-9-1 season. Plus, the Bengals’ offensive line is a major concern, especially after losing its two best players from last year’s six-win team.

ESPN recently ranked the Bengals as the NFL’s 23rd best team. But, NFL writer Mike Clay, who works at ESPN, believes that ranking is unfair to Cincinnati. Clay wrote an article "busting power ranking myths" using a “thorough examination of each roster.”

“I'm not concerned about which teams made the playoffs last season, especially considering that, if history holds up, roughly half of the teams who made the postseason in 2016 will miss out in 2017,” Clay wrote.

So, among his busted myths, he includes the Bengals one of three teams ranked too low in ESPN’s power ranking. Here’s what he had to say about Cincinnati:

Cincinnati Bengals

Ranking: 23 | Where I'd rank them: 12

It's easy to forget the Bengals made the playoffs five consecutive seasons prior to falling to 6-9-1 last season. The defense actually played well (315 points allowed, which ranked eighth best in the league), leaving the offense as the culprit for the fall. Last offseason, wideouts Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones departed in free agency and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson left for Cleveland. Add in injuries to A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Gio Bernard and suddenly Brandon LaFell is leading the team in targets (103) and C.J. Uzomah, Cody Core and James Wright are combining to play 837 snaps. That's not ideal.

These injuries should be healed now, and rookies Joe Mixon and John Ross add another level of explosive playmaking ability to the offense. The Bengals' defense suffered very little turnover and should, once again, be one of the league's better units. The elephant in the room, of course, is the team's dreadful offensive line, which lost studs Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler in free agency. By my metrics, however, Cincinnati has the league's easiest schedule.

This is a team primed for a return to the playoffs if the offense can rebound.

The Chargers and Cardinals are Clay’s other two teams who are currently ranked too low by ESPN. Meanwhile, he believes the Raiders, Dolphins and Lions are ranked too high after their playoff appearances last season.

Many of Clay’s reasons for why the Bengals are “primed for a return to the playoffs” are the same reasons we believe the team will win nine or more games in 2017.

  • The defense did well at the end of the 2016 season and should continue clicking in 2017 with more added pieces.
  • The offense is reloaded with playmakers.
  • The schedule is fairly easy in 2017.

So, what do you think? Were the Bengals ranked too low in ESPN’s power ranking? Is Clay spot on here?