Photo credit: Keith Allison
Author: Joey Carr
Since the turn of the century, in order to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, a trip to Beantown is usually on the docket. The Patriots have been terrorizing the AFC for years now, and it’s very rare that another team besides a Peyton Manning led squad makes it past New England. Tom Brady just seems to find a way to win in January, and that makes it extremely difficult for another team to gain entry to February football. The Broncos have done it once and the Ravens did it a few times in the past but there is just a consistency to having the Pats in the Super Bowl that is unprecedented. However, there is a team on the rise this year in the AFC that looks poised to give the Patriots a run for their money. They’re unproven in the playoffs but an extremely hot start to the year has people wondering if this is the year they finally make it over the hump. That team is the Cincinnati Bengals.
In years past, the AFC has been the Patriots stomping ground, and to be honest, that probably won’t change anytime soon. As long as Tom Brady is still healthy, the No. 1 or 2 seed in the AFC will be occupied by New England. Although, just like both the Ravens and Jets have in the past, the Pats can be beaten; and with no other immediate threat, with the exception of Denver, Cincy looks to be in position to have a great chance at terminating the Patriots trip to Santa Clara. They have the talent, the right coaching staff, and the benefit of a relatively easy division with the Ravens barely staying afloat and the Steelers without Big Ben for the next four weeks. They even have the praise of another NFL head coach, as John Harbaugh of the Ravens called them “the most talented team in the league”. While that might be a tad bit exaggerated, it’s not too far off from the truth. Let’s take a look at the roster: at quarterback, they have one of the most underrated players in the game in Andy Dalton, who is more known for his blunders than accomplishments. He’s performing close to the level of Rodgers and Brady so far, and with a great dynamic core of players around him, it seems like he will only get better. One of those players is receiver A.J. Green, who is easily one of the best pass-catchers in the game. He’s capable of breaking the 100-yard receiving yard every game, which is simply a deadly weapon to have at your disposal if you’re a quarterback. Running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are perhaps the best “1-2” backfield punch the NFL has to offer and continue to wreck havoc for opposing coaches and defensive lines. However, in order for a great team to succeed, they need talent on both sides of the ball, and the Bengals certainly have their fair share of talent on defense. Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson are a terrific pair up front on the line, and A.J. Hawk and Rey Maualuga are adept linebackers that get the job done. Adam Jones is a bit underwhelming as a number one cornerback but he’s been performing okay for the most part of the season.
All the talent is there for the Bengals, and it’s showing thus far in the season. They’re 4-0 and rank second in the league in offense (behind who else, the Patriots) and are doing a fair job on defense. They’ve managed to skim by in a couple of their games, the Baltimore game especially, but overall have been playing some extremely
decent football. However, they’ll be tested to the fullest next week when they take on Seattle and we’ll get to see what this “Who-Dey” team is really made of. Although, as of now, they’re playing great, gelling very well, and are having fun as a unit. They’ve got a tough task come January when they try to win their first playoff game under head coach Marvin Lewis but if they can pull out a win, a date with the New England Patriots and maybe even Santa Clara, California is certainly a possibility.
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