Believe it or not, the 2018 season is a pivotal campaign in the direction of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise. Most believe that the team will fare poorly, but we’ve seen them rise out of the depths of mediocrity to get to the postseason in the recent past.
If they are to rise from the ashes again this year, it’s going to take exceptional performances from some of the major figures in the franchise and the fulfilling of a lot of “if’s”. If history has taught us anything, a number of high-profile people will be the ones who carry this team to greatness.
According to ESPN and their take on the most influential NFL faces of 2018, the Bengals have a likely trio who made their list. Coming in at No. 79 of the 99 people and issues listed is Marvin Lewis.
79. Marvin Lewis, Bengals: Is there such a thing as a hot seat in Cincy? Lewis has been immovable since 2003 and could be on the hot seat in fans’ minds only. -- Mike Sando
There are a number of plusses and minuses on Lewis’ resume as the Bengals’ head coach. On the positive side, Lewis has a knack for rebuilding his team and getting them to the playoffs. But, of course, his 0-7 postseason record resonates within NFL circles.
As it often goes with NFL teams, the quarterback is the next in line for scrutiny. Andy Dalton comes in at No. 38, as he still has a lot to prove—particularly in the postseason.
38. Andy Dalton, Bengals: Dalton has no more guaranteed money in his deal beyond 2018, which means Cincinnati could easily bail from its 2019-20 commitment. That doesn’t necessarily make the seat beneath Dalton scorching, but it’s a little warm, at least.
Like Lewis, Dalton has had his ups and downs in Cincinnati. He’s 0-4 as a starter in the postseason (he missed the 2015 Wild Card game with an injury) and hasn’t been the same since the team has been fleeced in free agency the past two years.
Also making a dent in his recent production is the lack of having one of his favorite targets in tight end Tyler Eifert. After grabbing 13 touchdowns in 2015, Eifert has only played in 10 games and been in the end zone just five times.
He’s also on ESPN’s list of the top 99 storylines of 2018.
63. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals: With Eifert, it’s as much about having a healthy year as it is a big one. He has missed 40 games due to injury the past four years and is coming off of back surgery. If he gets through all 16 this year somehow, he hits the market as a 28-year-old tight end with a history of performing when healthy.
If Eifert can play most, if not all of the season, the Bengals’ offense will be immensely better than last season. He is a great red zone threat and could be a difference maker a year after the team lost a handful of close contests.
Again, we’re talking in “if’s” this year. There are a lot of dominoes that need to fall into place for the team in 2018, but “if” they do, this team could make a solid run this year.