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Cincinnati Bengals: Expect a fight for top spot in the AFC North

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GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 22: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals prepares to snap the football during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Bengals 34-31. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 22: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals prepares to snap the football during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Bengals 34-31. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor won’t have an easy task in his first season. He can expect the AFC North to be an absolute dogfight in 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals rookie head coach Zac Taylor can expect a hornets’ nest in his first season in the Queen City. The AFC North could wind up being one of the most compelling divisions to watch in 2019. From top to bottom, the Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens are tightly bunched, at least on paper.

Entering training camp, the Browns look to be a media darling with only hype and hope as their claim to a potential division title. After that, it could be a mixed bag in regards to who finishes second, third, and fourth.

Taylor will have his work cut out for him. The Bengals were an uninspiring 6-10 overall, and 1-5 in the AFC North last year. He inherits a team with question marks and a veteran quarterback who looks to have flatlined. In turn, Cincinnati is banking on the one time assistant to Sean McVay to find some of that magic that the Los Angeles Rams seem to have in abundance.

The first-year head coach will be battling in what is an uber-competitive division.  With the Rams, Taylor had the benefit of an NFC West that had two of the worst teams in football last year. By comparison, the AFC North will be an absolute dogfight this year. It features two up and coming quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson, as well as tested veterans in Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton.

Cincinnati could be a team who plays well, even above average, but finds itself at the bottom of the division. Road games at the Seattle Seahawks, the Rams (in London), and the Oakland Raiders won’t help. In addition, the offensive line looks to be a legitimate source of concern with Jonah Williams lost to a shoulder injury and Clint Boling retiring.

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Bottom line, the potential of a young rookie head coach like Taylor will be judged by how quickly he can resurrect Dalton. If the veteran quarterback can find a second wind, the Bengals could still be a player in a tough division. If the offensive line proves porous, it’ll be a long season in Cincinnati once again.

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