Game-By-Game Predictions: 2013 Bengals
We love making predictions about the future and no other sort of predictions are more fascinating than sports, whether it’s assembling your fantasy team, taking the over or under for total points line or simply figuring out how your favorite team may actually fare in the upcoming season. The Cincinnati Bengals seem poised for great things, but let’s take a closer look at the schedule – game-by-game – and see if we can come up with something a little better than a shot in the dark to see how this team does:
Week 1: at Chicago Bears
The Bears went 10-6 last year and missed the playoffs, relying on a running game and stout defense. Their passing attack wasn’t great because their annually anemic offensive line wasn’t great, though they took steps to address it in the offseason with the signing of ex-New Orleans Saints LT Jermon Bushrod and drafting of RG Kyle Long. DT Geno Atkins and company still have a field day and the Bengals win comfortably, starting the season off right.
Week 2: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers showed some signs of vulnerability last season – going 8-8 – and this season could also be somewhat trying. WR Mike Wallace is gone on offense, though the Steelers did pick up Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton. NT Casey Hampton is gone from the defensive line along with new Bengal, OLB James Harrison. Also, Pittsburgh’s secondary is aging. QB Andy Dalton starts to gel with first-round rookie TE Tyler Eifert and the Bengals pull it out at home.
Week 3: vs. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay’s quick-hitting passing offense may neutralize Cincinnati's pass rush, turning the game into a shootout. Dalton finds success with second-round rookie RB Giovani Bernard sneaking out of the backfield and snagging a few passes, but Packers WRs Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb take advantage of Cincinnati's young secondary, winning a close, high-scoring game and handing Cincinnati a 2-1 record.
Week 4: at Cleveland Browns
The annually terrible Browns host the Bengals where Cincinnati’s defensive line gets in QB Brandon Weeden’s face all game long, making it a long, miserable day for the second-year pro. They feature heavy doses of RB Trent Richardson, but LB Vontaze Burfict steps up and the Bengals blow out the Browns with A.J. Green finishing with a monster stat line.
Week 5: vs. New England Patriots
Brady’s bunch come to town, looking quite different from last year. TE Rob Gronkowski should be back and causing matchup nightmares as usual. The running game looks to be in good shape with RBs Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen spearheading the ground attack. Dalton will want to go after the secondary as it seems to be New England’s Achilles’ heel every year, but the Patriots are still the Patriots and walk away with a win on the strength of Brady’s poise and leadership with his new-look receiving corps. Bengals still over .500 at 3-2.
Week 6: at Buffalo Bills
Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel should be starting here while RBs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson will be a solid 1-2 punch at runningback. There’s also Wr Stevie Johnson – a 1,000 yard receiver. The Bengals’ D should be more than up for the challenge and, with Buffalo’s defense transitioning to a 3-4 this season, Dalton should be able to pick apart the Bills to the tune of a comfortable victory.
Week 7: at Detroit Lions
The 4-12 Lions regressed big time last year, though WR Calvin Johnson was still monstrous with his 1,964 receiving yards, and that will probably be the focus for the Bengals’ defense. RB Reggie Bush was also picked up the offseason and should provide QB Matthew Stafford with a short-yardage option. For the Cincinnati offense, the key will be stopping DT Ndamukong Suh and his friends and the battle in the trenches will be a good one. RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard will neutralize the pass rush and Dalton will find his targets, giving Cincinnati the win and improving its record to 5-2.
Week 8: vs. New York Jets
The biggest question here is which quarterback the Bengals will be facing.Either way, Cincinnati should have success, whether it’s QB MarkSanchez – who’s never completed more than 57% of his passes in a season – or the second-round rookie, Geno Smith. Leon Hall and the Bengals secondary will be all over this receiving group. Dalton may struggle against a pass defense that gave up the second-fewest yards last year (and that was without CB Darrelle Revis for just about the entire season), but the Bengals’ running game takes over, allowing the Bengals to cruise to victory.
Week 9: at Miami Dolphins
Cincinnati travels to Miami to face second-year QB Ryan Tannehill and old friend and ex-Steeler Wallace, who should help the quarterback’s development. The Bengals could face a stiff challenge in the Dolphins’ defense. Sackmaster DE Cameron Wake could be a problem while the safeties – Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons – are talented to say the least. It’s a young defense and they get the better of the Bengals in Miami, dropping Cincinnati to 6-3.
Week 10: at Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati finish off their fourth road game in five contests against defending Super Bowl champs. Sure, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone. But DL Haloit Ngata, OLBs Elvis Dummervil and Terrell Suggs ase well as CB Lardarius Webb are still around, all still very good at their respective jobs. QB Joe Flacco will hand off a lot to RB Ray Rice and be efficient all around. All in all, Baltimore’s a very good home team and they give the Bengals their second loss in a row.
Week 11: vs. Cleveland
The Bengals welcome some home-field advantage and not much has changed between these two since Week 4. Cincinnati goes to 7-4 on the year as Bernard really starts to establish himself as a reliable target and Atkins finally receives the attention he deserves for his defensive prowess.
Week 12: bye
Week 13: at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers’ offensive line is tailor-made for defensive lines like the Bengals to chew up QB Philip Rivers and make the game a never-ending smooch with the dirt. Atkins along with DEs Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson will be giddy for this one. On offense, Cincinnati will look for Green as the San Diego rush defense is actually quite stout. The Bengals get the victory thanks to their pass rush.
Week 14: vs. Indianapolis Colts
QB Andrew Luck and the Colts come to town and, much like the Chargers, have question marks with their offensive line. Similarly, they figure to have no answers for Cincinnati’s defensive line. There’s big question marks on defense too for Indianapolis and the Bengals’ offense rolls, sending Cincinnati to their ninth win for the season.
Week 15: at Pittsburgh
The annual trip into the “Steel City” is always treacherous and the “Terrible Towels” will be out in force and seeking revenge for the Week 2 loss. The Bengals drop this one and fall to 9-5 on the year.
Week 16: vs. Minnesota Vikings
The beast that is RB Adrian Peterson comes to town, along with QB Christian Ponder, who got a new downfield weapon in WR Greg Jennings. The keys for the Bengals is shutting down Peterson, but also not getting fooled on play-action, especially with Jennings lining up outside. On offense, the line will need to contain DE Jared Allen and the pass rush while using Bernard on some draws could lead to some nice gains. Cincinnati prevails at home in a competitive affair, improving to 10-5.
Week 17: vs. Baltimore
The season finale brings the Ravens to Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati has an answer for Rice and the Bengals lean somewhat heavily on their run game to control the clock in a battle of possession and field position. They avenge their earlier defeat and finish the year at 11-5.
At 11-5, the Bengals make the playoffs. Dalton continues his development into a solid quarterback, thanks to the reliable Green and Jermaine Gresham. Eifert and Bernard also have very good rookie campaigns. The pass rush maintains its devastating reputation and the secondary gels into a good unit. The defense allows the Bengals to get past the first round of the playoffs, maybe even allowing for an AFC Championship appearance. All in all, it’s a very successful season for the Bengals.
Or that’s the prediction at least.