2015 Record: 12-4-0
Head Coach: Marvin Lewis
New Faces for 2016 - WR Brandon LaFell, LB Karlos Dansby, DB Taylor Mays
OFFENSE: Quarterback Andy Dalton is in his sixth season for Cincy after a big season when he threw for 3,250 yards with 25 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. A.J. McCarron is a solid backup QB as he passed for 854 yards with six touchdowns and two picks.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Bengals will look to the one-two backfield tandem of Gio Bernard (730 yards rushing, 4.7 ypc, two TD and also 49 receptions) and Jeremy Hill, who slipped some last year, but still led the team in rushing with 794 yards (3.6 ypc) and scored eleven touchdowns.
The receiving corps is in good hands with A.J. Green leading the way after another big season (86 receptions for 1,297 yards and ten TD) while tight end Tyler Eifert, who missed the 2014 with injuries, had a huge comeback season with 52 catches for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Bengals will have to replace Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu, who both left in the off-season in free agency. Brandon LaFell (37 receptions for 515 yards) comes over from New England to help fill the void along with rookie Tyler Boyd (Pitt) and possibly Brandon Tate, who played very sparingly last year.
DEFENSE: The defense features Carlos Dunlap (13 1/2 quarterback sacks) and Michael Johnson (five sacks) at the end spots in the 4-3 set along with tackles Geno Atkins (11 sacks) and Domata Peko, who registered five of the teams 42 QB sacks.
The linebacking unit has Ray Maualuga in the middle with 13-year-veteran Karlos Dansby on the outside. Vontaze Burfict will also man an outside spot (three game suspension to begin season) once returns to the field. Providing depth are Vincent Rey, Nick Vigil and P.J. Dawson.
Adam 'Pacman' Jones (three interceptions) and Dre Kirkpatrick are the corners while Shawn Williams and George Iloka will be the safeties. Free agent Taylor Mays is also ready to play in the secondary. William Jackson III (Houston) is a first-round pick who will play cornerback as well.
The Bengals will look to replace Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson (now on Oakland Raiders) in the secondary. Nelson was a co-leader in the AFC last season with eight interceptions.
OUTLOOK: The Bengals feature an explosive offense (26.2 points per game in 2015) with Dalton and company airing it out on a regular basis to complement the running game. Losing two solid wide receivers hurts but the Bengals feel confident that things will continue to hum along on offense as long as Dalton and Green stay healthy.
Head Coach Marvin Lewis would love to see the team take the next step as they seek a sixth consecutive playoff appearance by finally WINNING a playoff game.
The defense will need to play the same solid way against the run as last season that put pressure on opposing offenses to throw more often, which led to a plus-11 on the takeaway chart for Cincinnati. The defense will need to be opportunistic once again while keep pressure on opposing quarterbacks. In addition, the Bengals ranked second in the NFL in scoring defense last season.
This team can win the AFC North again, but Pittsburgh looms large and the Baltimore Ravens will be looking to bounce back after an injury riddled season set them back. If the Bengals get to the post-season again, they have to break through and at least win a playoff game.
Fearless forecast - 11-5 this year (AFC wild card team)
2016 TEAM SCHEDULE
Week 1 - at NY Jets
Week 2 - at Pittsburgh
Week 3 - vs. Denver
Week 4 - vs. Miami
Week 5 - at Dallas
Week 6 - at New England
Week 7 - vs. Cleveland
Week 8 - vs. Washington
Week 9 - BYE
Week 10 - at NY Giants
Week 11 - vs. Buffalo
Week 12 - at Baltimore
Week 13 - vs. Philadelphia
Week 14 - at Cleveland
Week 15 - vs. Pittsburgh
Week 16 - at Houston
Week 17 - vs. Baltimore