With retirement inevitable for some top quarterbacks, the Bengals are poised to take over the AFC. Could Dalton, Carr be the new Brady vs Manning?
The last couple offseasons, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been flirting with retirement. Tom Brady will be 40. How long can he play and how long can he continue to dominate? Denver has the defense but a ton of questions at quarterback. Right now, New England is the cream of the crop in the AFC. But, when Brady retires, who knows what can happen. Will Jimmy Garoppolo step right in and continue where Brady left off or will they be a team we’re not used to seeing? If it’s the latter, what teams can step up and wear the AFC crown? Are the Bengals in the mix?
Who can take over the AFC?
- Denver Broncos– With their top 5 defense and several weapons on offense, they’re a team who can win with an average quarterback. But can they keep the defense together long enough to see a post-Brady, Roethlisberger NFL?
- Tennessee Titans– They have a really good young quarterback who was recognized as a top 100 player this past season. They also have a ton of weapons on offense. If they can upgrade the defense some, they could become a powerhouse in the AFC.
- Houston Texans– Already a really good team. Drafting quarterback Deshaun Watson may have been exactly what they need. The national champion quarterback has played in the big games. He also gets to sit and learn rather than being thrown into the fire. If their defense can remain elite, they have a chance to be special.
The New Jack collision
- Oakland Raiders– This team may be the closest of any to catching New England and Pittsburgh. Derek Carr has been lighting the NFL up in his first few seasons. With the addition of Jared Cook and Marshawn Lynch to an already potent offense, this could be a special year and future for this young team. One area that needs to get better is the defense. But, they are by far good enough to reach their goal.
- Cincinnati Bengals– With their franchise quarterback in place and seemingly in the prime of his career, they reloaded on offense. Bringing in the fastest player in the NFL and a player in Mixon who has been compared to the best all-around back in the league–and also rival–Le’veon Bell. This offense should get back to its norm as one of the NFL’s best. Pass rush was in issue last year but was addressed with some good players in the draft. The Bengals are making the right moves and if the young offensive lineman can step up, this year may result in a playoff win. Not only have the Bengals made the right moves, they are a young team and built to be good now and down the road, which is why I left some other AFC teams off this list.
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Bengals vs Raiders could easily turn into a 2000’s Manning vs Brady rivalry. With Andy Dalton in the prime of his career, leading a young talented team and Carr in his mid 20’s leading a young talented team this could turn out to be a recurring battle. The Bengals need to get a playoff win under their belt and become a team who expects to win and plays with confidence. To turn the corner this year would be huge for the future of the franchise especially post Brady and Big Ben.
The AFC will be wide open and ready for the taking. Hopefully, the Bengals will be ready to step up. Dalton has the skills and experience to beat and lead his team against an Oakland Raiders team who just made it to their first playoff game since 2003.
I’m not saying the Bengals can’t and won’t beat a Brady led Patriots or a Big Ben led Steelers team. In fact, Dalton has beaten both teams in his career. In the win against the Pats, Cincy sacked Brady four times and had two turnovers. That’s the key. The defense has to step up and get a lot more pressure on opposing QB’s. Anytime Cincy has beat a team with an elite signal-caller, it’s because they have multiple sacks in a game and the QB stays under duress.
The Bengals have a very bright future, beginning with the 2017 season. It only gets brighter when you think about what the AFC landscape will look like a few years down the road. Dalton will be the guy who’s been there before and has the experience over other QB’s in the conference.
Hopefully, the team has won some playoff games by then and has the confidence to become the top dog in the conference. But, wouldn’t it be nice if teams had to go through Cincy for the Lombardi on a regular basis? I know I’ve had that dream a few times. But, it’s time for it to become reality. We’ve been waiting far too long and seen far too many talented teams underachieve. It’s time for the Bengals to become the legit contenders we know they can be.