The Bengals added a lot of tools to their arsenal in the 2017 NFL Draft. While the offensive line will still need to improve, there is certainly hope that the Bengals will be returning to the playoffs this season. If the Bengals can improve at a relatively fast rate, their season may go something like this.
The Bengals start out with a conference game at home. Given how competitive the AFC North tends to be, this is a must win game. The Ravens took some big steps in the draft to address their defense. Generally offensive players are able to contribute more quickly, giving the Bengals a slight edge. The Ravens lost wide receiver Steve Smith to retirement, but added Danny Woodhead to their backfield. Advantage goes to the Bengals in a close one.
Cumulative Record: 1-0
The Bengals tend to struggle under the bright lights of a nationally televised game. Hopefully this is the year that they break that tendency, but it is unlikely to happen against a great defense like the Texans. The unclear quarterback situation could give the Bengals a shot, particularly because the game is so early in the season. This one goes to the Texans, but if the Bengals can protect the quarterback long enough to score some points, they will have a chance.
Cumulative Record: 1-1
It is never easy going up against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers struggled at the beginning of the year last year, and it is still unclear if they will have any kind of running game. Drafting Jamaal Williams may help, but if they become one dimensional, it will help the Bengals substantially. Defensively they have made some improvements, but if the Bengals rookie offensive players are starting to click by this point, they may be able to score just enough to pull off the win. The Bengals win in an upset as their refurbished offense makes its presence known.
Cumulative Record: 2-1
This is a huge trap game for the Bengals. Coming off of a big win against the Packers, the Bengals need to pull off the win on the road against the Browns. The Browns will be much improved next season, but the team that wins the division will not be a team that loses to the Browns. Bengals win.
Cumulative Record: 3-1
It is uncertain what the Bills new regime will look like, but this should definitely be a winnable game. The Bills did add two top rookies in corner Tre’Davious White and wide receiver Zay Jones. The Bills may figure things out at some point next season, but I expect them to struggle early. Bengals win in home return.
Cumulative Record: 4-1
To win the AFC North, you must beat the Steelers. The Steelers should be improved this year if they can keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy and find a solid number two receiver in either rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster or Martavis Bryant who is returning from suspension. The Steelers also drafted T.J. Watt in an effort to improve their defense. The Bengals have an extra week to prepare and pull off this key divisional win.
Cumulative Record: 5-1
While the Colts have improved their defense, the question remains can they keep Andrew Luck upright? The Bengals should be able to score enough points to pull off the win, particularly if the Bengals’ new pass rushers have a big day.
Cumulative Record 6-1
The Jaguars are a bit of a mystery. If Blake Bortles and their passing game can bounce back, the addition of running back Leonard Fournette should make them an extremely potent offense. This could be a hiccup for the Bengals as they begin this three week road trip. Jaguars win.
Cumulative Record: 6-2
The Titans are a good team who got better in the draft. The additions of Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor will make them an even better offense, which will cause problems for the Bengals. Look for this game to be a shoot out, with the Bengals coming up just a bit short.
Cumulative Record: 6-3
The Bengals get back on track with this win against former assistant coach Vance Joseph’s Broncos. It will take time for the Broncos to adjust to coaching changes and solidify the quarterback position.
Cumulative Record: 7-3
It is much too late in the season to drop a game like this. The Bengals win to sweep the improved Browns for the season.
Cumulative Record: 8-3
The Bengals’ primetime woes continue. It is a good thing they pulled off the win on the road earlier in the season, as this loss results in splitting the series with the Steelers.
Cumulative Record: 8-4
The Bears will struggle next year as they try to figure out their identity as well as their quarterback situation. The Bengals win this one in a rout.
Cumulative Record: 9-4
The Vikings have taken steps to improve their offense from the ground up, but will still have problems in 2017. The Bengals keep their momentum going defeating another former assistant’s team.
Cumulative Record: 10-4
There should be no shortage of points scored in this game. Look for these two offenses to battle to keep pace with one another. The Bengals win in a high-scoring affair.
Cumulative Record: 11-4
The Bengals regular season ends just as it began, with a game against the Ravens. The Bengals may be competing for the divisional title at this point (possibly with the Ravens) or simply playoff seeding. Although the Bengals struggle from time to time in pressure situations, look for them to pull this one off.
Cumulative Record: 12-4
With a 12-4 record the Bengals could get a bye, but I would expect a three seed with the Patriots and Texans edging them out. The Bengals will play the lowest seeded AFC playoff team in the first round. Their most likely opponents will be either another AFC North team (probably the Steelers) or the second or third team in the AFC South. Either way, it looks to be a tough match-up. Both Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton have taken a lot of heat over the years for not winning in the playoffs. Could this be the year? After all nothing ever happened until it happened.