The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in 30 years, and will be looking to take the next step this season by getting that elusive postseason win and making a run through the AFC. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in 22 seasons, but that drought could come to an end thanks to three notable changes that should take Cincinnati to that next level in 2013-14.
2013 Super Bowl Odds: +3,300
Notable Change #1: Pressure To Succeed Even Higher For Coaching Staff
Head coach Marvin Lewis understands what is at stake heading in to this season, as the pressure on him is greater than ever before with a real sense of urgency that this team must succeed now. Lewis will pass Jim Mora Sr. for the most games coached with one team without winning a single playoff game if the Bengals don’t finally break through. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has done an excellent job with a young offense, and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has even more weapons to work with on defense, so the sense of urgency will be there for a coaching staff that must win now.
Notable Change #2: Dalton Set To Break Out In Third NFL Season
Quarterback Andy Dalton is just the sixth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons, and he is ready to break out in his third year. Dalton needs to do a better job of getting the ball off cleanly under pressure and hitting his targets on deep throws, and this could be the year he finally puts it all together. Dalton has worked hard on his footwork and refined his release point during offseason workouts, and he has a ton of weapons at his disposal led by Pro Bowl wide receiver AJ Green. Dalton is a hard-working leader that understands the offense’s success revolves around his play, and will look to take another step forward after finishing with the seventh-best passer rating in the AFC a year ago.
Notable Change #3: Defense Poised To Take Another Step Forward With Harrison, Kirkpatrick
The defense has been a strength of the Bengals for some time now, and should be even better with the addition of linebackers James Harrison, Aaron Maybin, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick played just five games last season after a concussion and knee injury kept him out, and Cincinnati’s first-round pick from last year’s draft is ready to challenge for more time with Leon Hall and Terence Newman holding down the starting corner jobs. Harrison has never played in a 4-3 but is smarter than some people give him credit for and should provide a pass-rush spark along with Maybin. The heart of the defense is a strength with tackles Geno Atkins and Domata Peko at tackle and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, while Zimmer is one of the best coordinators in the NFL. The defense is poised for a big year in 2013-14, with everything it needs to break through.
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