Cincinnati Bengals Preview Capsule
CINCINNATI BENGALS (12-5)
New faces: Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, LB Karlos Dansby, WR Brandon LaFell, WR Tyler Boyd.
Key losses: Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, WR Marvin Jones, WR Mohamed Sanu, RT Andre Smith, S Reggie Nelson.
Strengths: Bengals have kept intact core of team that tied club record with 12 wins, only to lose first-round playoff game for fifth straight season. Andy Dalton is fully recovered from broken thumb on passing hand that ended his breakout season — he led AFC in passer rating. AJ McCarron filled in at end of last season and showed he’s capable of leading team. Offensive line is deep and experienced, blocking for complementary backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Defense allowed second-fewest points in league last season. With DT Geno Atkins fully recovered from knee surgery in 2013, they have one of best pass-rushing tandems with end Carlos Dunlap — combined 24 ½ sacks.
Weaknesses: They lost Jones and Sanu — their No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, respectively — in free agency. They signed LaFell, whose injured right hand limited him during camp. Boyd impressed during camp but is rookie. Tight end Tyler Eifert, Dalton’s favorite target near goal line, is coming off ligament surgery on left ankle, missed all of camp and won’t be at full strength until several games into season. Bengals’ opening stretch of games includes Jets, Steelers and Broncos, so they’ll be tested. Plus, linebacker Vontaze Burfict will miss first three games while serving suspension from NFL for illegal hits.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Dalton, A.J. Green, Hill, Bernard, Dunlap, Atkins.
Expectations: They’ve got enough to make playoffs for club-record sixth straight season. Only two other teams have longer active playoff streaks: New England and Green Bay at seven straight. Both of those teams have reached Super Bowl, while Bengals have dropped NFL-record five straight opening-round games. Just like in last few years, it all comes down to that first postseason game.
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