Can The Bengals Really Overtake The Steelers And The Ravens In 2013?

By Jeremy Hritz

The Cincinnati Bengals have been building through the draft, and it is beginning to pay handsomely, as they have accumulated a talented group of young players. And after the most recent draft with the additions of tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard, the Bengals offense looks to have improved even more. Couple that with a young and aggressive defense led by Geno Atkins, and the Bengals seemed poised to take a shot at the AFC North Crown in the 2013 season.

It was the Bengals that stomped any hopes that the Steelers had of the playoffs in the 2012 season, by pulling out a close 13-10 victory at Heinz Field, a game that was low-lighted by a pick six by Ben Roethlisberger. It was the first time in a long time that the Bengals beat the Steelers in a meaningful game, and hopefully it was not a sign of things to come in impending seasons.

The success of the Bengals rests heavily on the shoulders of the red-one, Andy Dalton, who in two seasons has thrown for 47 touchdowns and 7067 passing yards, numbers similar to Roethlisberger who threw for 7342 yards and 47 touchdowns in his first two seasons. And with a potent offensive weapon in A.J. Green, along with his new draft toys, Dalton could be looking to put up even more impressive numbers in his junior year in the league.

However, if there is any knock on the young quarterback, it is that he takes too many sacks (70 in two seasons) and makes too many decisions that result in turnovers, with 29 interceptions and six fumbles lost in two seasons. If Dalton is to get the Bengals over the hump and past the first round of the playoffs, he must learn to protect the football much better.

This isn’t the only scrutiny of the young quarterback.

In a recent article on NFL.com that examined the top ten quarterbacks under 25, Dalton came in at number nine. Author Gregg Rosenthal noted that Dalton is an effective passer when he is getting rid of the ball quickly, but that he struggles connecting on the deep ball, averaging only 5.58 yards per attempt in the final six games for the Bengals (stats from NFL.com).

In order for Dalton to take the next step and claim an AFC North championship, he must show in 2013 that he has improved in these areas.

This much is true about the Bengals: they have a lot of young talent. And in a division with the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, teams with many holes in the rosters due to player departures, Cincinnati may be in position to assert themselves as the division favorites.

Or, they could continue to be the “Bungles” as they are so endearingly called in Pittsburgh, just good enough to get a ticket into the tournament, or just bad enough to earn a top five selection in the draft. While their 2013 outcome is far from being decided, on paper, they appear to be a team on the upswing.

The Steelers will find out first hand just how good the Bengals are in week two on Sunday Night in Cincinnati, and whether or not Dalton has championed the bomb.

  • 2443scott

    every team has its ups and downs and one team might be better then others in a division in a given year but saying that the steelers have done it at a reg pace then bengals and ravens till they both do it reg its still the steelers division to win or lose the ravens have been doing it more but i think thats cause the steelers have had alot injuries on off side line its ok to have one guy come in fill a hole from a injury but then have another guy fill his spot too all along the line does not work ….so once steelers can keep a reg line healthy i dont see any of the other teams in the division taking control of the division like steelers can

  • http://twitter.com/softdrums Shea Fahr

    As long as Ben is upright for the entire season combined with an effective running game, I see no reason why we should not be able to win the AFC North crown back.

  • steeltown

    This season, yes, it would appear that the Bengals are the Team to beat. Im not saying they’ll win the AFCNorth or anything, but they seem to be the most improved Team in the Division

    That being said, until they win the AFC Championship this century and make it to the big game, they will remain the “Bungles”

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Those two things are paramount, a healthy QB and good rushing attack

  • Ahmad

    I still stand by the fact that the Bengals are the most improved team in the AFC North. It’s gonna be one heck of a dog fight for the crown this year but I look forward to the competition.

  • steeltown

    I think Wheaton and Hawthorne have signed

  • JohnnyV1

    NO!

  • Tom

    I think it is a distinct possibility. The Bengals have done a good job of getting weapons for Dalton. Giovanni Bernard and Tyler Eifert were both players that I hoped the Steelers would draft.

  • zyzak

    Look they added some rookies but Dalton has severe limitations and I think teams can throw against them.

  • Pete

    The Bengals have a good young defense. By taking Eifert it looks like they will pull a New England and use lots of 2TE formations creating mismatches. Both Eifert and Grisham will be a lot to handle along with AJ Green. I don’t know if the Bengals will win the AFC North but they have the talent to do it. If the Steelers can split with the Ravens and Bengals AND win all of the games against the teams that had losing records last season, that’s 10 wins.

  • hergieburbur

    Given that the Bengals have gone to the playoffs more in the past 4 seasons than we have, I think the wrong question is being asked. I think we need to look at how WE get back where we belong, not continuing to look down on the Bengals and assuming we are always ahead of them.

  • alex

    the fate of this season lands squarely on the health of the OL…your starting 5 look really good on paper, but one major injury and then Beachum steps in and you got scrub city after that…

    RB is improving with youth and all returners cumming in hungry, WRs is about speed and rout runners, and we wont have to wait long for Heath…but that OL will make or break the season…

  • westcoasteeler

    Kinda the same thing but if we can just stay healthy, or get healthy at the right time, we will always be the team to beat in the AFCN.

  • Johnny Loose

    The Bungles have definitely improved. Just one problem though, Andy Dalton. As Steeler fans, we are blessed to have him as Cincinnati’s QB with all the firepower around him. It’s like tossing your Bugatti keys to a 16 year old girl. Bungles backed into the playoffs two seasons ago. Last season they were lucky enough to capitalize on an injury ridden/mistake prone Steelers team. They will remain Bungles. #GoSteelers

  • Johnny Loose

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think they’ve actually won a playoff game in this millennium.

  • mem359

    Right. It would be no surprise if the Bengals had a great season this year, and also no surprise if they went into the septic tank the year after. They can only “overtake” if they become consistent.

  • Steve

    Dalton is no push over, he rubbed it in our face last year at our home. He was awesome at TCU and his abilities are endless. We need to keep the O line healthy for once and run up the chute endlessly to wear the opponent down. One thing that tears a team apart is when the run can’t be stopped. The best weapon is keeping the ball away from the other teams O, it demoralizes a opponent.

  • Steve

    James will wreck havoc on our left tackle in game 2, its a Ga-Ran-T.