Season Preview: Cincinnati Bengals

Season Preview: Cincinnati Bengals
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Sports Mole previews the season ahead of AFC North side the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Cincinnati Bengals are looking to take the next step this season after crashing out of the playoffs in the Wild Card round for two successive years.

Marvin Lewis's side have become a force in the AFC North to rival the Pittsburgh Steelers' and the Baltimore Ravens' stranglehold on the division.

Their outstanding defense led by Geno Atkins should continue to be one of the top units in the NFL. Their offense should be interesting to watch to see if quarterback Andy Dalton can become an elite quarterback.

Sports Mole takes a look at what the season ahead holds for the Bengals.

Head Coach: Marvin Lewis

Last season: 10-6

Review: After losing on the opening day to the Ravens, the Bengals began an inconsistent run of form as they won their next three matches beating the Cleveland Browns, the Washington Redskins and the Jacksonville Jaguars comfortably.

However, they would then lose their next four matches to quality opposition such as the Steelers and the Denver Broncos, falling to a 3-5 record at the halfway stage of the campaign.

Lewis's side got their act together starting with a fine 31-13 win over reigning Super Bowl champions the New York Giants and followed that with three victories over their AFC West rivals.

Late-season wins over the Ravens and the Steelers propelled the Bengals into the playoffs, where they would again face the Houston Texans, who knocked them out in the 2011 season. It was a similar story as the Texans cruised to a 19-13 win in Reliant Stadium.

Notable ins

Tyler Eifert: The Bengals drafted the tight end 21st overall in this year's Draft. The 22-year-old was the top-rated player at his position after years of solid production in college at Notre Dame. He will provide a dual threat with Jermaine Gresham to boost the Bengals offense as they look to emulate the success of the New England Patriots with a dual tight end system.

James Harrison: The veteran linebacker swapped Heinz Field for Paul Brown Stadium in the off-season after nine seasons with the Steelers. He will add much experience to the youthful Bengals defense, especially during playoff time, after two Super Bowl wins with the Steelers.

Notable Outs

Manny Lawson: The former first-round pick left the Bengals to join the Buffalo Bills in the off-season. The 29-year-old started 10 games for Lewis's side last season but has been replaced in the team by Harrison.

Pat Sims: The Bengals' depth on their defensive line took a hit when the 27-year-old decided to leave the club in the off-season to join the Oakland Raiders. Sims played in eight games for the Bengals last season.

Key Player Offense: AJ Green

Key Player Defense: Geno Atkins

Rookie to watch: Giovani Bernard

Pre-season form: 3-1

Prediction: 10-6 – The Bengals have added some serious offensive weapons to their team this season. They could be the team to beat in the AFC if Dalton can take his game to the next level and with the new receivers around him and if AJ Green continues on his path to becoming one of the best wideouts in the NFL. Their defense is one of the best in the league, they are a cert for the playoffs, the only problem will be securing that first win when they get there. If they do, they could going to New York for the Super Bowl.

Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on August 8, 2013
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