Steel City Underground

Bengals Opponent Overview

Our next overview of AFC North opponents examines the Cincinnati Bengals, who finished in third place in the division last season.

I honestly feel as though the Bengals have the best chance of the Steelers three AFC North to rebound from the poor 2016 campaign.

Here's an overview of the Cincinnati Bengals needs for the upcoming 2017 season, and why I think they can do better than the Browns and Ravens.

2016 Rankings

Record: 6-9-1, 3rd AFC North

Offense Rank
Yards / Game 17
Yards / Play 18
Rushing Yards / Game 13
Rushing Yards / Play 23
Passing Yards / Game 15
Passing Yards / Play 13
Interception Rate 7
Sacks / Pass Attempt 26
First Downs / Game 9
Punt Return Avg 28
Kickoff Return Avg 3
Field Goals Made 3
3rd Down Pct 24
4th Down Pct 15
Red Zone Pct 18
Goal to Go% 17t
Avg Time of Possession 21
Points / Game 24
Defense Rank
Yards / Game 17
Yards / Play 11
Rushing Yards / Game 21
Rushing Yards / Play 23
Passing Yards / Game 11
Passing Yards / Play 8
Interception Rate 8
Sacks / Pass Attempt 22
First Downs / Game 18
Punt Return Avg 27
Kickoff Return Avg 19
3rd Down Pct 17
4th Down Pct 15
Red Zone Pct 7
Goal to Go% 4
Points / Game 8
Point Differential / Game 19
Yard Differential / Game 15
Passing Leaders Att Comp Yards TDs INT
Andy Dalton 563 364 4,206 18 15
Rushing Leaders Att Yards Avg TDs FUM
Jeremy Hill 222 839 3.8 9 0
Rex Burkhead 74 344 4.6 2 1
Giovani Bernard 91 337 3.7 2 1
Receiving Leaders Rec Yds Avg TDs
A.J. Green 66 984 14.6 4
Brandon LaFell 64 862 13.5 6
Tyler Boyd 54 603 11.2 1
Giovani Bernard 39 336 8.6 1
Tyler Eifert 29 394 13.6 5
Defensive Leaders Tack Sack Fum INTs
Vontaze Burfict 73 2.0 1 2
Karlos Dansby 69 1.0 0 0
Shawn Williams 59 1.0 1 3
Adam Jones 54 0 1 1
Vincent Rey 48 0 1 1
George Iloka 48 0 0 3
Dre Kirkpatrick 35 0 0 3
Carlos Dunlap 30 8.0 3 0
Geno Atkins 21 9.0 0 0

Free Agency

The Bengals have a number of players ready to hit the open market, should they not resign them before the new league year opens on March 9th.

Among those that may not return:

Looking at the above list, considering none of these players resign, the Bengals find themselves in decent shape at most of these positions. They have routinely prepared to avoid resigning cornerbacks by spending top picks for them in the draft. William Jackson III, who missed all of last season after being taken in the first round, or another former first rounder, Darqueze Denard, could easily step in for Kirkpatrick, and they have both, should one fail to.

Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard are both back as running backs, but will need offensive line to pave the way, as Whitworth and Zeitler both head to free agency.

Brandon LaFell might incur the biggest loss since the Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu last season. Tyler Boyd was taken early in last year's draft and could grow to be a weapon for Dalton, but as seen last season, when Green goes down, the Bengals had little else to lean on (especially with Eifert on the shelf often).

Draft and Depth Chart Outlook

Biggest needs: C, LB, Edge

What the Bengals don't having a pressing need for are running backs. Their receiver situation, and offensive line are noted above. Even with Eifert banged up a lot throughout his career, the Bengals are also fairly set at tight end, with Tyler Kroft as his backup.

Like every team, the Bengals will be eyeballing edge rushers, and potentially linebackers as well, if Karlos Dansby heads to free agency. Domato Peko's replacement could be fourth round 2016 pick Andrew Billings, who also sat out the entire season due to injury. The rest of the starting line is intact, but with Margus Hunt and Wallace Gilberry also on the outside looking in, the Bengals may not have reliable depth along the defensive front.

Billings and WJ3 both project as "extra draft picks" (as Steelers GM Kevin Colbert would call them) meaning second-year players who technically do not have a full year of on-field experience. Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict are fixtures in the linebacking corps. with Vincent Rey a nice number two behind Burfict.

The secondary should be alright without Dre Kirkpatrick, as Pacman Jones come back, with the aforementioned Dennard and WJ3 competing for Dre's spot.

On special teams Kevin Huber is a reliable punter. Randy Bullock, who played two weeks with the Steelers, replaced long-time, but struggling kicker Mike Nugent midseason. He will compete with Jon Brown for the position in camp.


The Bengals have a number of players returning to full health that could help their team bounce back. Their holes look a bit less than the Ravens, with a settled running back rotation, and a WR1 that's among the best in the league.

Cincy also has a staggering 11 draft picks coming up in April, with the 9th overall pick. The have two picks each in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th rounds. With that many picks, and most of them earlier in those rounds, they should be able to add at least one, if not two starters via the draft, as well as depth along both lines. The Bengals also have roughly $48 million in cap space, which is 11th in the amount to spend among all teams. They could easily bring back some of their free agents, or sign others.

That's why I'm not sweating their potential free agent losses as much as Baltimore. Plus, the Bengals are only a year removed from winning the AFC North. That doesn't mean I think they'll overtake the Steelers in 2017, but I do believe they'll have the best shot among the three (Cincy, Baltimore, Cleveland) to do so.

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