ESPN’s John Clayton, a.k.a. The Cryptkeeper, isn’t high on the Cincinnati Bengals’ chances of making the postseason this time around.
"Q: With a healthy Carson Palmer and a 12th-ranked defense sure to improve, what chances do you give the Bengals to make the playoffs this season?From Brian in Cincinnati A: I don’t give them a great chance to make the playoffs, but I give them a chance to be much improved. On defense, they are still a pass-rusher or two away from being good. They need to have more playmaking ability on defense. But I like their draft. Clearly, the return of Carson Palmer will add an average of six to seven points a game to their offense. Their schedule is easy. The problem with thinking about playoffs is the fact the Steelers and Ravens have a significant talent edge over the Bengals, making the Bengals the third- or fourth-best team in the division. At least this season there is hope for the Bengals."
I think that’s a fair analysis. Certainly, I can’t argue with the point about needing more playmakers on defense. One of my talking points this whole offseason has been the need for that Scary Dude on D who keeps the opposing offensive coordinator up at night. It’s why I was pimping B.J. Raji at six in the draft.
However, I also think the Bengals may well have gotten that guy — or guys — in Rey Maualuga and Michael Johnson. The latter looks like one of those pass-rushers, and a healthy Antwan Odom could be the other. As for Maualuga, if he’s half as good as Odell Thurman was in his one and only year in the league — 98 tackles, four forced fumbles, and five picks — that will qualify as him as a “playmaker.”
Clayton’s point about the Bengals’ talent deficit versus Pittsburgh and Baltimore is also a good point, but at least on paper the Bengals have made some strides, and depending on how guys like Tank Johnson and Roy Williams pan out, that talent gap may be a lot narrower than anyone believes.