Why this could be the Bengals’ year to get it done

Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Each year is a new chapter for the Cincinnati Bengals to make dreams come true. Last year’s effort was a nightmare. This season could be much different.

The window of opportunity in the NFL is one that many teams want to look through. Unfortunately, the time it stays open varies from one franchise to the next. Bengals fans have been exposed to various instances of emotional trauma disguised as potential. In other words, promising versions of the team on the banks of the Ohio River have seldom delivered the goods. But, this year’s edition of the Bengals could raise more than a few eyebrows.

It’s true. Each year looks like a winning season to the diehard faithful. But, there are always indicators that can signal something bigger. The word “potential” has always been a deceptive way to say that a team is underachieving. Yet, when addressed on a deeper level, there’s always a few explanations for why things could occur. Let’s face it, there’s no crystal ball approach when it comes to the Bengals. The years can be a blur if they start out bad and become forgettable when they’re hideous.

What are the chances the Bengals can turn the 2017 season around? Are there major signs that this could be the year they finally get it together and move to the AFC Championship? As a hopeful but logical fan, my thinking is forever changing. That’s the price one pays when rooting for the Bengals. But, this campaign has the earmarks of one that should get Cincinnati over the hump.

The Bounceback Factor 

This, above all else, is a major reason for a turnaround. The Bengals are coming off a year that was disappointing in so many ways. But, this presents a chance for the Bengals to move back into competition mode and prove they are a legitimate contender.

After the 6-9-1 heart attack of 2016, there will be a promising change. Contrary to what most fans may be thinking, last year wasn’t a sign of the Apocalypse. There were a few things that needed to be addressed and it seems the majority of the laundry list has been marked off. The offensive line is still anyone’s guess. But, that’s another subject.

Looking at the history of Marvin Lewis led teams, the 2017 version of the Bengals is due for a come up. Not so long ago, in an NFL not so far away, the Bengals have done this before. Yes, that’s right. The Stripes have a tendency to bounce back after disappointing years. Under Lewis, the Bengals have had three years in which they made the journey back from subpar years and made the playoffs. Two of those seasons were just four win efforts and one was an 8-8 mark. But, the fact remains that they got back to the postseason.

During the Sam Wyche era, there was a turnaround that resulted in a Super Bowl appearance. For those fans who can go back further, the same thing happened under the watch of Forrest Gregg. Barring a major catastrophe, the Bengals have the weapons to make a run for the Big Dance again.

Something To Prove

This Bengals team is due. There have been too many close calls with no prize to show for the effort. There are still fans with a bitter taste from the January 9 meltdown. The 2015 season was supposed to be the year NFL fans saw the real Bengals stand up. But, once again, injuries also took a toll on the final product.

Certain factors will be in effect to help this year’s team prove they’re better than that rain-soaked game against the Steelers. Most of the burden will be on the offense. That being said, OC Ken Zampese is under the gun to get the best from his new toys. Yes, there will be musical chairs with the O-line. But, for the most part, Cedric Ogbuehi is starting. Jake Fisher and Russell Bodine are names you’ll have to get used to saying. The Bengals’ offense has to hit people in the mouth and then do it again.

Lewis is also in the crosshairs. But, when hasn’t he been under the microscope? Yet, this is working to Cincy’s advantage. At this point, very few analysts are giving the Bengals a chance. For all intensive purposes, the AFC North belongs to the Steelers. That, in itself, is more than enough motivation to prove them wrong.

Next: Signing Up The D

Let Them Play

It’s going to be a year of trial and error for rookies like Joe Mixon, Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis. But, that’s what will make the year special. The passion of the youngsters will outshine the negativity of years past. This year’s squad can make big things happen. All they need is time and chances to get on the field. The Bengals will make a splash with all hands on deck. The veterans are impressed with the rookies and the youngsters are in awe of their teammates. It can work, if Lewis makes the right moves.