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Post-draft, pre-training camp 2017 Bengals schedule prediction

With the addition of 11 talented rookies and some free agent signings, how much better will be the Bengals be in 2017 than the team was in 2016?

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Though the Cincinnati Bengals are getting a lot of quality veteran players back from injury this year, the free agency period didn’t inspire much confidence that the team would vastly improve and get back to its playoff ways. But, as the Bengals have often done in the Marvin Lewis era, the team seemed to strike gold with 11 new and exciting additions in the NFL Draft.

Before the draft and when the schedule was released back in early April, we did a prediction on the outlook of how the 2017 Bengals would fare, based on who they face and how free agency played out. Conservatively, 8-9 wins at the time seemed reasonable, with a potential Wild Card berth within grasp, if a lot of things fell the team’s way.

But, just how many wins did players like John Ross, Joe Mixon, Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Jake Elliott and the other six rookies buy the Bengals this year? On this week’s episode of the Orange and Black Insider, guest co-host Rebecca Toback and I discussed the rookies’ possible impact and dissected each of the 16 games on this year’s schedule.

You can download the audio clip of the segment here on SoundCloud or watch in the video above.

Will Marvin Lewis give the rookies extensive roles?

When it comes to the Bengals making a rebound this year, a lot of it has to do with the team not having a reluctance to play talented rookies. That doesn’t necessarily mean that guys like Ross, Mixon and others need to be “starters”, per se. But having prominent roles, should they immediately prove to be capable of contributing as we all expect, is a big part of a successful formula.

Lewis has a spotty track record of doling out big responsibilities early on to young players, but when he finally allows a player to see the field after riding the pine, it usually pays off. A couple of members of the 2010 class, perennial Pro Bowlers Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are shining examples of Lewis’ preference for playing veterans over even the most promising of rookies. While neither started right away, once they were given a chance, they quickly took off and impressed.

The above-mentioned star names from the 2017 class should receive significant snaps, as Lewis can’t be afraid to lean on high-potential rookies in what appears to be a contract year for the head coach. Additionally the team is, in a way, getting two extra draft picks in the form of first round cornerback William Jackson III and fourth round defensive tackle Andrew Billings, who missed their 2016 rookie campaigns with injuries.

While Rebecca and I don’t expect Lewis to whole-heartedly change who he is as a head coach in that respect this year, the long-overdue lame-duck status he appears to be in this year may force his hand.

Which games hold weight in the AFC playoff picture?

Obviously, the six games within the AFC North almost-always pave the way to the playoffs. While the Bengals have had large success against the Browns and Ravens in recent years, they still can’t figure out the puzzle to at least continuously split the annual series with the Steelers.

Aside from that, tough games against the Texans, Titans, Broncos and Colts will contribute toward possible conference playoff scenarios. In the Andy Dalton era, the Bengals are just 2-2 against Indianapolis, while having a deplorable 1-5 record against Houston—including the playoffs against both squads. A 1-4 mark in the span against Denver also looms large, so the Bengals will need to change some recent trends to get back to the postseason.

Also on this year’s schedules are a number of reunions. Marvin Jones and his Detroit Lions come to Paul Brown Stadium on Christmas Eve and the Bengals will face former assistant coaches Hue Jackson (Browns) and Mike Zimmer (Vikings), which comprise three games on the schedule. With the two matchups against Cleveland, the Bengals will get their first look at Kevin Zeitler on a different sideline, while Johnathan Joseph (Texans) will suit up against his former team for the sixth time since leaving The Queen City in free agency after 2010.

What should we expect in terms of wins and losses?

The 11 drafted players demonstrate the team’s purposeful move to get younger, faster and more athletic this offseason. That should pay off in the win column. Will the new additions make a huge difference, or will there be just a slight increase from last year’s 6-9-1 record?

As it currently stands, this team should be in the 9-11 win range with another push to the postseason in play. If the Bengals don’t experience the types of injuries the team suffered to stars like last year, that will be especially true. Still, a lot of the questions the team is facing this year have to be answered in a favorable manner for the optimistic side of these predictions to come to fruition.

What do you think the Bengals’ record will be in 2017, based on the schedule and offseason roster additions?

If you’re unable to join us live, all Orange and Black Insider content is here on Cincy Jungle, as well as on our SoundCloud and YouTube channels, and on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at theobinsider@gmail.com. Thanks for listening!