August 26, 2010 12:33 PM
I consider myself something of an expert on the 2009 Bengals...or at least their last two games.
And what I saw there was one glaring weakness - they had terrible receivers.
If you could shut down Chad Ochocinco, which the Jets were able to do, there was no one in the passing game who could beat you.
Now there is.
The Terrell Owens signing was perfect for the Bengals. Yes, you don't just get a receiver...you also get a big headache...but in general that first year with Owens tends to be a honeymoon period. So that's not an immediate worry. The immediate worry should be for opposing defenses, because now the Bengals are a much better team.
Even without multiple threats at receiver last year, the Bengals rode their running game to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance. That won't change this year. In fact, nothing on this team took a step back during the off-season - the Bengals improved.
They've changed kickers after Shayne Graham hurt them against the Jets in the playoffs. Rey Maualuga is back from injury. Owens single-handedly improves the offense. This is already a team that went 6-0 within a challenging division (the Ravens and Steelers weren't bad teams a year ago) - they're building upon a solid base.
There are some character issues. (These are the Cincinnati Bengals, after all.) Pacman Jones and Matt Jones, two players who have had issues with NFL suspensions and substance abuse (M. Jones) are on this team. And there's always a chance Owens will act up. So those potential problems are something to consider.
Overall, though, the Bengals will have a fantastic 2010 season. Unfortunately, it will be one that ends in disappointment. In my analysis, the Bengals are the best AFC team that ends up on the wrong side of the bubble. They'll go 10-6...but that's only good enough for second place in their division and too little for the second wild card. Sorry, Bengals fans.
2010 Prediction: 10-6, 2nd Place in AFC North