Together at last?
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-Cedric Benson has found himself in Cincinnati, which, granted, would be the last place someone would usually look (scratch that-Cleveland would be the last, now). He rushed for 1,251 yards and seven touchdowns and managed to get punched only once in the offseason. Either Benson has the worst luck when he's drinking, or he's just a bad drunk. Whichever it is, there's never a dull moment when you're with the man (unless you notice his 4.2 YPC, which was the lowest among rushers with over a thousand yards).
-Rey Mauluaga won't be suspended for his offseason DUI. With Michael Johnson breathing down his neck on the strong side, he'll likely supplant Dhani Jones at middle linebacker. Of course, you know, he wouldn't be able to do anything for the team if he'd been suspended. It's the little things, people.
-Shayne Graham is gone and with him the ghosts of kicker's past. Mike Nugent or Dave Rayner will take over the position.
-Even with Andre Smith's bloated self and Carson Palmer's fear of being killed on the football field, the offensive line still did a pretty good job. They allowed only 29 sacks, and by re-signing Bobbie Williams they've kept their nucleus pretty much intact.
-The interior defensive line has some promise. Domata Peko has had time to heal, and he's a beast against the run. Without him, the linebackers behind him are open to harassment from opposing linemen. Nick Mangold would just not stop ordering pizzas to Dhani Jones' house in the playoffs. Tank Johnson will play the other tackle spot, and that's just interesting.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-Carson Palmer might be washed up. He just doesn't have the same confidence or strength that saw him put together two straight 4,000 yard seasons. Palmer has already been put into a secondary role to the run game; and when asked to pass in his preseason displays, his arm strength has looked suspect. Balls have been fluttering, and not in a euphemistically good way. He's probably the third-best quarterback in the division behind Ben and Flacco now.
-Offseason acquisition Antonio Bryant banged up his knee before playing a game for the Bengals, and looks like he'll be released soon. He was Cincy's third receiver, and constituted most of their depth. Without him, Jordan Shipley or Andre Caldwell will take over.
-Both of the Bengals' defensive ends have been hurt in the preseason. Antwan Odom aggravated his meniscus, and Robert Geathers has been walking around in a protective boot. They should be back for Week One, but...OMINOUS.
-Marvin Lewis needs to win something of note soon. If not for years of depression, this team would have normal expectations instead of breaking out the champagne for making the Wild Card game. Two winning season out of seven isn't a stunning success. In a vacuum, Lewis would probably have been fired by now.
Listen, you've got Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Cedric Benson, and MAYBE Matt Jones all commiserating under one banner. It's mesmerizing. If Dos Equis has the most interesting man, this is the most interesting team by far. Will they win games though?
INCORRECT PREDICTION: 9-7, SECOND IN AFC NORTH, POSSIBLY HOSTING THE GREATEST PARTIES EVAH