Russell S. Baxter writes for a number of NFL publications, as he’s spent the last 40-plus years watching football, and in his eyes, how well the Bengals defense plays in 2013 will determine if Cincinnati can make their third-straight postseason:
And the Cincinnati Bengals will be in the playoffs for a third straight year…
If: The Cincinnati defense picks up where it left off last season. Even if you include the team’s playoff loss at Houston, the Bengals limited each of its final nine opponents to 20 or fewer points, and over that span the defensive unit surrendered only nine touchdowns in as many contests. Combine the fact that the team, led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and emerging pass rusher Michael Johnson, finished third in the NFL with 51 sacks and Mike Zimmer’s unit could be on the verge of some big things in 2013.
Adding James Harrison to the defense should help prevent any drop-off in 2013, but make no mistake about it, Harrison wants to join the Bengals for no other reason than to remain in the AFC North and inflict pain on those who he feels have wronged him at some point in his NFL career:
But make no mistake, this is a move heavily fueled on Harrison’s end by revenge. For examples of how a motivated Harrison plays, just see the games against Baltimore over the years. The Ravens cut Harrison in 2004 and he is only sure to be more fired up after last month’s brief flirtation.
The Akron native and former Kent State standout has always played well against the Browns (his career high in tackles is against Cleveland) with his hardest hits coming against them.
When it comes to the Steelers, it is going to be even more personal. Harrison was made the fall guy in Pittsburgh’s decision to reduce payroll. Instead of LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu also being asked to restructure, it was Harrison who was given the option of taking a pay cut or be released.