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3 major keys to a Cincinnati Bengals turnaround in 2018

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CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 29: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates with fans after the Bengals 24-23 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 29, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 29: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates with fans after the Bengals 24-23 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 29, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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The offseason is producing sweeping changes for the Cincinnati Bengals. But, those upgrades must turn into postseason success.

Seems like eons since the Cincinnati Bengals were in the playoffs. It can be frustrating to watch other teams participate in the postseason festivities, after five straight years of Wild Card berths. Yet, it hasn’t been as long as it feels. Now, two years after their last appearance, it’s time to get the ship righted and positioned for success again. After an up and down season and seven wins, it’s time to turn things around and get to the big dance. That means defining what needs to be done.

Most fans were shocked when Marvin Lewis returned with a two-year extension. But, believe it or not, it may have been for the best. Honestly, who was going to take the job and deal with the uncertainty of dealing with Mike Brown? Just face it. Jon Gruden was never coming to Cincinnati to coach the Bengals. And Brown wasn’t giving up $100M. Although, Gruden’s 10-year deal is equivalent to Lewis being on the sidelines for 15 years.

With Marvin still at the helm, a lot of work remains to be done. But, the scenario isn’t all gloom and doom. The pieces are in place and it’s possible to steer the Bengals back to the postseason and beyond.

Rebuilding The Ginger

Sure, it’s easier said than done. But, if the Bengals are going to make a serious run at the AFC North crown Andy Dalton has to be redefined.

Over the past two seasons, Dalton hasn’t come close to being the player of 2015. Some will automatically put all the blame on the Bengals’ signal-caller. But, the truth of the matter is obvious. There’s no stability. In seven years, Andy has been under the influence of four different offensive coordinators.

In contrast, look at Tom Brady. Josh McDaniels has done wonders as the QB coach and offensive coordinator for New England. That familiarity has helped Brady and the Pats win two Super Bowls. There was also the 2007 campaign that saw New England score 589 points. That’s chemistry.

Bill Lazor has pegged Alex Van Pelt to get his quarterback into playoff form. Lazor has confidence in what Dalton can do for Cincy offense and explained via Bengals.com.

"“Andy is good at having options and making decisions. He can make decisions fast and when you attach pass options on the run plays, I think it plays to his strengths. It’s just another tool. Andy’s good at the decisions on the checks and for the late pass options. I think he’s proven over time, well before I got here, he’s productive.”"

Getting Dalton back to that MVP form of 2015 will go a long way towards getting back to the playoffs.

Blow up the offense

Along with getting The Ginger focused, there has to be a huge turnaround with the playbook. Honestly, the rest of the AFC–and the NFL–have sniffed out what the Bengals are doing on the offensive side of the ball. 

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Ken Zampese tried to install another version of what Hue Jackson ran. But, the problem is simple. There was too much thinking and not enough reacting on offense. All of the pretty shifts and slick motion didn’t do a thing for points on the scoreboard. Again, Lazor isn’t afraid to start from scratch and make the offense totally his. There has to come a time when change is embraced and the old schemes are overhauled.

"“You have to be realistic. What we did last year did not work. You can’t be afraid to let go of things that did not work. As a whole, it’s been a downward trend. If that means you blow it up, then you blow it up. That’s a decision we’ll make. I’m not afraid to blow the whole thing up. There’s a tendency to hold on because it’s what you know, it’s what you do. But you also have to be brave enough to take an honest evaluation of what is and isn’t working.”"

Bengals fans wanted change. Well, it’s coming at light speed.

Marvelous Marv

This has to be the highlight of Lewis’ career. He has to show the city–and the NFL–that his extension was worth the psychotic breaks it caused many fans.

Lewis has to be held to the standard that he offered Bengals Nation.

"“We’re not done yet, but we did not (give up). Our goal as an organization is to be world champions. We’re not going to get there this year. That’s my job, to get the team to win the Super Bowl, and we’re short of that this year. That’s all I can say. There’s nothing in between as a coach — you either do or you don’t. And this year we didn’t.”"

Essentially, the ball (football game, Marv) is in Lewis’ court. He’s been granted the mythical “power” to assemble a dream staff of coaches. There are no more excuses. He has a two-year deal to get the Bengals into the Super Bowl.

The clock is ticking…again.

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