Cincinnati Bengals 2014 Season Preview and Predictions
The outlook on the Bengals looks good in 2014. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Season Predictions (with Analysis)
On paper it seems the Bengals will face a more difficult schedule in 2014 comparatively to 2013, but according to NFL Nation, this doesn’t seem to be the case based on strength of schedule (here’s the 2013 and 2014 links). But these numbers can be skewed greatly by a really bad or good team and this seems to be the case in the upcoming season as the Bengals will face the AFC and NFC South divisions along with the New England Patriots (at Foxbourgh) and the Denver Broncos (in Cincinnati).
As I see it, the Bengals will realistically go 11-5 on the year with losses at New England, at New Orleans, at Indianapolis, at Baltimore, and versus Denver. This will mean the Bengals will have to win both games against the Browns and Steelers. All of these games will be defensive battles, but if Dalton and Co. can show up just enough, all of these games can be theirs. Best case scenario on the season, the Bengals go undefeated at home losing only two games on the road (at New England and at New Orleans) and finish 14-2. The worse case scenario is the Bengals finish around 9-7 by splitting divisional games against the Steelers and Ravens and losing to Denver, New England, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Tampa Bay. If this were to happen, the Bengals would find themselves battling with one of the AFC East teams (other than the Patriots and because the AFC East always seems to produce one mediocre team), the Chiefs, Chargers, Ravens, and Steelers for the wild card spots.
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Outside of the young and up-and-coming Colts, the AFC South was a pretty weak division last year. The Texans may have added prized rookie Jadaveon Clowney, but if the Bengals block effectively, they should be able to handle this change. The Jaguars are still a young and developing team as is the Titans, so the Bengals should be able to handle both opponents. They will face the Colts again this year, who they beat in a shootout last year 42-28, but will do so at Lucas Oil Stadium this year. This will be by far the toughest game amongst these four.
The NFC South was an extremely polarized division last year with the Panthers and Saints finishing 12-4 and 11-5 respectively, while the Buccaneers and Falcons each finished with a 4-12 record. The Bengals will face the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, and though they’ve made substantial improvements in their roster (two coming from the Bengals), we’ve seen in the past that putting together a team via free agency, and in one off-season, isn’t necessarily effective (see the Dolphins). It shouldn’t be an easy game, as the Buccaneers possess a potentially dangerous running game and defense, but the Bengals should come away with a victory both here and against the Falcons at home.
When facing the Panthers and Saints, the Bengals will do so at home and on the road respectively. The Panthers are a dangerous team on the ground and on defense (especially their pass rush). Because the Bengals possesses a stout rush defense and will look to run the ball more than pass it, I believe the Bengals can squeak out a win against Carolina. When facing the Saints on the road, it will be a different ball game. The Saints are dangerous in their dome and beating them in New Orleans could be a signature win. It’s not impossible, but one has to assume the Bengals will not be favored in this game by any stretch.
This same argument can be made when facing the Patriots in Foxborough. Although the Bengals defeated the Patriots last year, they did so in a “nail-biter” while at home. Winning this game would be another “signature win” as the Bengals will go in as underdogs in Foxborough. The Broncos are the final out-of-division opponent on the year and the Bengals will face them at Paul Brown stadium. They will be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of the Bengals and a perfect home record once again this year. Peyton Manning and company have probably the most potent offense in the league while their defense gained significant pieces such as safety T.J. Ward (a familiar foe from the Browns), defensive end/linebacker DeMarcus Ware, and cornerback Aquib Talib. It may be the only game where the Bengals are seen as underdogs at home, but the they are certainly capable of winning any game at home while also having proven themselves capable of defeating great quarterbacks (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers last year).
The battle to win the AFC North will be a struggle as each team has made improvements. The Bengals continue to be the most talented team, but pride is a funny thing, and last year the Bengals split the home and away match ups against each team. Considering some of the difficult games the Bengals must play this year, they may have to do better than splitting these match ups in 2014.
Let us know what you think.