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Da Don’s Verdict: Are the Cincinnati Bengals Ready to be a Contender After Years of Turmoil?

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Since 1989 the Bengals have gone from being a Super Bowl contender to the “Bungals” with 1st round picks that included David Klinger, Ki-Jana Carter, Peter Warrick, and Akili Smith among some of the unfortunate moments for Bengals fans.

But since Marvin Lewis was hired in 2001 they became consistent mediocre teams in the NFL during the Carson Palmer, TJ Houshmandzeh, and Chad Johnson (Ochocinco) era in the mid 2000’s. After trading Carson Palmer in 2011 to the Oakland Raiders the team’s been better than they ever were with the 2002 1st overall pick from USC.

Where’s the foundation for the new Bengals you may ask? Da Don would tell you it’s all about the defense. In a division that includes the likes of the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers who’ve taken turns winning the division in the past ten years, now the Bengals have the best defense in the division.

It all changed after the 2010 draft, they drafted Jermaine Gresham, Carlos Dunlap, and Geno Atkins. Geno Atkins has since grown to be mention with Vince Wilfork and Haloti Ngata as one of the DT’s in the NFL, Gresham is a solid TE who’s reached a Pro Bowl, and Dunlap is a solid pass rusher for an outrageously deep DL.

In the 2011 they were able to do what San Diego did ten years earlier with LaDanian Tomlinson and Drew Brees by drafting AJ Green and Andy Dalton. Both are becoming cornerstones to a once down and out franchise.

Heading into this season the Bengals were my #2 seed in the AFC next to the Denver Broncos, and there’s no need for me to change that prediction at all to this point after today’s win over Green Bay.

With a 2-1 record Marvin Lewis’s squad are tied with defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore for the division lead. Rookie RB Gio Bernard has been productive to this point in the season and 1st round pick TE Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame is getting a bigger role week after week. This team has room to grow but at 2-1 that’s the scary part.

Going forward they have @ Cleveland, New England, @ Buffalo, @ Detroit, NY Jets, @ Miami, @ Baltimore, and a second game vs. Cleveland before a bye week in Week 12.

Cleveland did win today but Minnesota doesn’t have the defense the Bengals do, New England has some trouble offensively so far and Gronkowski won’t be 100% yet either, also the Jets DL dominated Logan Mankins and the rest of the Pats OL in Week 2. Buffalo and Detroit are winnable games based on talent also.

They could be 7-2 or 8-1 before having to go to Baltimore. That game will be for bragging rights in the AFC North. This could be the year the Benglas win a playoff game which they haven’t done since the 1988 AFC Championship vs. the emerging Buffalo Bills 21-10 all before losing to the San Francisco 49ers on one of Joe Montana’s finest 4th quarter drives.

Bengals fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years with AJ Green, Geno Atkins, Andy Dalton and even count on Bernard and Eifert as well they aren’t going anywhere. Stay tuned football fans because I expect the Cincinnati Bengals to be in the playoff discussion and even win a playoff game this year.

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