The national media has not been kind to the Bengals this offseason; predicting Cincinnati finishes even worse than last year’s 7-9 showing. Some are even predicting the Cleveland Browns to finish ahead of the Bengals. With the clear improvements the Bengals have made this offseason it is ludicrous to think that they would do worse than last season without a major injury.
Peter King of NBC Sports sees things a bit differently than most for the Bengals and discusses his view on the Bengals as a part of his 2018 NFL season predictions.
Defensive Player of the Year
Aaron Donald may be the biggest name among interior defensive linemen in the NFL, but King predicts that Geno Atkins will be the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. King points to Atkins’ supporting cast on the defensive line (specifically mentioning Carlos Dunalp and Andrew Billings, but oddly enough not Carl Lawson) as a reason why he will have a better season than other contenders like Donald and now Bears defender Khalil Mack. If Atkins is able to achieve this feat it will certainly mean good things for the Bengals defense and team overall.
Defensive player: Geno Atkins, defensive tackle, Cincinnati. Surprising win over the two mega-money guys, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack. But Atkins will get a huge hand from Carlos Dunlap and Andrew Billings on the defensive front.
The contenders: 2. Aaron Donald, DT, Rams. 3. Trey Flowers, DE, New England. 4. Chandler Jones, DE, Arizona. 5. Marcus Peters, CB, Rams.
King predicts that the Bengals will ride Atkins’ stellar season and their strong defense to an AFC North championship. With the Pittsburgh Steelers looking for answers in the secondary, the door is open for the Bengals or Baltimore Ravens to make a run. The Bengals excellent pass rush and shutdown No. 1 cornerback William Jackson will certainly go a long way. King predicts the Bengals win the division and earn the fourth playoff seed in the AFC, finishing just ahead of the Steelers who earn the top wild card spot.
The Bengals will win the division with this front, and Atkins will lead the way.
Coach of the Year Contender
King predicts that Doug Pederson will win coach of the year, but lists Marvin Lewis as one of the top contenders. If the Bengals are able to get back into the playoffs after a two year drought, Lewis could warrant attention for the award. As King mentions, the defense looks to be impressive and if the Bengals can run the ball behind this offensive line, the offense could be lights out as well.
Coach: Doug Pederson, Philadelphia. The defending Super Bowl champ wouldn’t normally win this, but I’ve got the Eagles surviving the early questions at quarterback to go an NFL-best 13-3.
The contenders: 2. Bill Belichick, New England. 3. Anthony Lynn, Chargers. 4. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati. 5. Doug Marrone, Jacksonville.
The Bengals are not a team without flaws, but with all of the offseason improvements they have made and the talent that they have built up over the last several years, there is reason for optimism in Cincinnati. The Bengals look to be strong defensively and have an excellent passing game on offense. If they can run the ball effectively and matchup with backs in pass coverage, the sky is the limit for this team.