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11-09-2011, 06:20 AM
Advance Scouting: Cincinnati Bengals

By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com | Posted: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 7:48 pm

PITTSBURGH - Two months ago when the season started, never were the Cincinnati Bengals considered a Super Bowl contender. But right now, they're the AFC's No. 1 seed.

It's been an amazing turnaround as the 4-12 "Bungals" of a year ago have transformed themselves from worst to a tie for first in the AFC North.

"They are the division leader, a 6-2 football team," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "They are as hot as anyone in football right now.

Yes, the Bengals are red-hot. They're riding high on a five-game winning streak. They're starting to draw attention from the national media.

However, the Bengals will soon have to prove if they're legitimate contenders or pretenders.

Yes, they do have a signature win against the Buffalo Bills (5-3). But the combined record of their opponents is only 16-33. Starting Sunday, the competition gets significantly tougher. Four of the Bengals' last eight games come against the Steelers (6-3) and Baltimore Ravens (6-2).

That tough stretch starts Sunday when the Bengals host the Steelers.

"We anticipate a tough, highly contested battle, AFC North style," Tomlin said. "They are extremely hot."

Here's a look at what's made the Bengals so hot:


This is a new era for the Bengals offensively speaking. Gone are the long-time faces of the franchise, quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Chad Ochicino.

Fed up with all the in-house bickering and poor personnel decisions made over the years by the front office, Palmer refused to play for the Bengals this year. He in essence retired until he was traded to the Oakland Raiders two weeks ago.

Ochocinco, a talented player but a cancer in the locker room, was traded to the New England Patriots where he hardly plays.

No one in Cincinnati misses Palmer or Ochocinco, not with the way Bengals' top two picks in this year's draft have played as rookies.

A.J. Green, a wide receiver out of Georgia taken with the fourth overall pick of the draft, is tied for 17th in the league with 40 catches for 599 yards and five touchdowns.

Andy Dalton, a quarterback out of Texas Christian drafted in the second round, has thrown 12 TD passes and seven interceptions, and has an 85.0 passer rating. Nicknamed the "Red Rifle" because of his red hair, Dalton has a better passer rating than established NFL QBs such as San Diego's Philip Rivers, Atlanta's Matt Ryan, Kansas City's Matt Cassel and Baltimore's Joe Flacco.

"He has been pretty rock solid," Tomlin said of Dalton. "He's not your typical rookie, first and foremost, because he's playing. He's come into a situation that a lot of rookies don't come into, in that he's been the guy since day one. They've had complete clarity in that area. That has helped them, and that has helped him. So these are not normal rookie circumstances, if you will."

When the Bengals run the ball, they hand it off to veteran Cedric Benson, who's 13th in the league with an average of 76.6 rushing yards per game.

Offensively, the Bengals rank 22nd in the NFL in total yards.


As hard as it is to believe, the Bengals are just as efficient as the Steelers' defensively.

The Steelers and Bengals rank Nos. 3 and 4 in the league in total defense.

Despite allowing the Ravens to drive 92 yards for the winning touchdown this past Sunday, the Steelers are still third against the pass. But the Bengals, who play a 4-3 base defense, are second in stopping the run.

In scoring defense, the Bengals are fourth (17.5 points per game). The Steelers are fifth (18.0 ppg).

"When you start talking about Cincinnati, it starts with their defense," Tomlin said. "Coach Marvin Lewis and (defensive coordinator) Mike Zimmer have done an awesome job with that group, developing them over the last number of years.

"If you look at areas of where they excel, and there are many, first and foremost they are second in league at stopping the run, and they do a nice job of creating turnovers and forcing fumbles."

Unlike the Steelers who've only taken the ball away from opponents four times, the Bengals have 12 takeaways (three interceptions and nine fumble recoveries).

"A couple of new acquisitions appear to be leading that charge," Tomlin said. "Nate Clements appears to be very ball aware in terms of playing through the ball or ripping and stripping the ball, as does Thomas Howard."

Clements is an 11th-year cornerback who was the Buffalo Bills' first-round pick in the 2001 draft. Howard is an outside linebacker taken in the second round of the '06 draft by the Oakland Raiders.

Another of the off-season acquisitions that have helped the Bengals defensively was the signing of outside linebacker Manny Lawson, the San Francisco 49ers' first-round draft pick in 2006.

11-09-2011, 01:59 PM
Hate to say it should be a test for us....but we need to win. I do think they are not nearly as good as their record, and their rookie QB has not seen any defenses such as ours or the Ratbirds- I expect them to easily finish 3rd in our division this year....