The NFL season is about to start with Week 1 finally here. That means everyone is putting out a fresh set of NFL Power Rankings to usher in the new season.
As has been the case throughout the offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals trend more toward the bottom in the majority of these rankings. Not everyone is sold this team can rebound from last year’s 6-9-1 record and overcome the offseason defections of key players.
Just how close are the Bengals to returning to the playoffs? Depends on the defense -- specifically, the newbies in the front seven. Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson were added in the draft to provide Carlos Dunlap with some semblance of help. Pressure would make the secondary -- and especially the safeties -- appear much better than their showing in the preseason. Funny how things change ... When the defense was balling out, everyone complained about Andy Dalton. Now Dalton is the best thing that ever happened to this football team.
It’s really hard to see 23 teams being better than the Bengals this year. If nothing else, their easy schedule should prevent them from being a bottom-10 team like NFL.com seems to think. They think the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles are all better than the Bengals, which is hard to see right now with our orange-tinted glasses. We’ll get a good idea of one of those teams when the Bengals host the Ravens in Week 1.
Both ESPN and SB Nation have the Bengals ranked 20th right now. Frankly, that’s probably the range Cincinnati deserves to be in after last year, as well as after losing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler this offseason. Even if we’re pretty confident the Bengals are better than that ranking, they need to prove it first for the nation to recognize as much.
But, we’re not the only ones who have faith in the Bengals having a rebound season. CBS Sports has the Bengals ranked 16th in his Week 1 power rankings. Pete Prisco, who does the rankings there, believes the offensive line is what will make or break this team:
They still have a lot of talent, but it's all about the offensive line this year. There is a lot of youth up front.
The highest ranking the Bengals received was 15th overall by Yahoo, who think Joe Mixon is clearly the best option at running back for this offense.
After watching Joe Mixon this preseason and Jeremy Hill struggle the past two seasons, it’s clear that every snap the Bengals give to Hill over Mixon is a waste. I’m floored when I see that the Bengals are reportedly planning to stick with Hill as their top back (if he’s healthy) at the start of the season.
It’s clear the Bengals aren’t highly thought of heading into the new season, but it is nice to see them getting some respect from several websites. None of this ultimately matters in the long run, especially if the Bengals have the kind of season we know they’re capable of having.
Where do you think the Bengal should be ranked heading into Week 1?