The Case For the Bengals to Surprise People in 2019

Expectations are low for the Bengals this year. They are ranked 30th in the most recent nfl.com power rankings. Still, there is reason for optimism.

The most obvious good news for Bengals fans is that these rankings mean absolutely nothing and no one really knows anything until teams hit the field. The better news is that there are reasons Cincinnati may be contenders this year.

The early schedule is kind:

The Bengals don’t look very good on paper. The same can be said of the 49ers, Cardinals, Bills and Jaguars. These teams make up four of Cincinnati’s first seven games.  If Cincinnati can take advantage of these four very winnable games before a Week 9 bye, the team could start believing in itself. From there, anything can happen. If the team is in realistic contention come the bye week, staying healthy becomes key. Injuries doomed Cincinnati as much as anything last year.

The division is full of question marks:

The number one thing to look at when trying to decide whether an NFL team can contend is their division. In the AFC North, the Steelers will likely still be competitive. Still, they did lose two thirds of their once lethal offensive trio. Thus, that team imploding is not a stretch.

The same can be said of Baltimore who has put the entire franchise in the hands of a quarterback who while super athletic, completed less than 59% of his throws last year. It is next to impossible to learn how to throw at the NFL level. Until Lamar Jackson does, performances like the playoff loss to the Chargers will pop up occasionally. When they do, it does not matter how good the rest of the roster is.

Elsewhere in Ohio, the new look Browns are doing a lot of talking. That could make life harder for them when the rubber meets the road in September. If things get off to a rough start, that locker room will turn on each other.

The Bengals know who their quarterback is and are quietly going about their business. They also established a clear vision in the draft. That can go a long way.

The Bengals have surprised everyone before:

As the offseason has worn on, expectations for the Bengals have gotten lower and lower. It has been somewhat reminiscent of this time of year in 2011. Heading in to that season, the Bengals were built around then incoming rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. There were even whispers of an 0-16 season. However, that team made the playoffs.

Guys like Dalton, Green, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap were on that team. They are all still in Cincinnati and have had careers ranging from solid to great for the franchise. Those guys should be leading the charge in telling the young guys to ignore the outside noise and they can use 2011 as an example.