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Beware of the Bengals: Things are Looking Up in Cincy

The Cincinnati Bengals Faithful
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton

One of Many Reasons to Believe

It’s been awhile since Cincinnati was considered the jungle for any NFL teams. While the Bengals may well find their way into the 2011-12 Playoffs, they’re still not quite to the point of consistently causing many NFL squads any sort of trepidation. That may be about to change. You see, the Cincinnati Bengals are a team that the rest of the league should start getting concerned with…right about now.

It’s more shocking, because the tide has turned so quickly. The Bungles have never been a franchise known for excellence. Still, there was that brief glimpse of “success” with Carson Palmer and friends a few years back. In fact, as recently as 2009, Cincy reached the postseason before a first round exit. They followed with a 4-12 season and discussion of Marvin Lewis’s seat again heated up. Carson Palmer demanded a trade and then retired. Ocho Cinco departed. The offense’s reigns were handed over to Andy Dalton, whom few really believed in.

Fast-forward to now. This year’s Bengals are 9-6 and likely heading back to the Playoffs. Dalton has had a phenomenal rookie season only hidden in part because of the fireworks provided by fellow frosh Cam Newton. Fellow newbie A.J. Green is heading to the Pro Bowl. Cedric Benson has become a relatively steady performer and has again surpassed the 1,000 yard rushing mark. Rey Maualuga and Thomas Howard are a formidable linebacker duo.

Cincinnati Bengals Linebacker Rey Maualuga

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What’s scary is that the talent pool is far deeper and richer. Reggie Nelson. Jermaine Grisham. Jerome Simpson. Leon Hall. What should be far scarier is that the Bengals are poised to reload their roster in 2012. Consider another year of experience for a young and talented team PLUS a 2012 first-round pick courtesy of the Raiders (for Carson Palmer) and another second round selection from Oakland in 2013 that could turn into a first-rounder.

If the recent past is any indication, Cincinnati is getting the hang of this whole draft thing. A young and talented foundation seems to be in place. The opportunity to build on that core is there. Maybe Marvin Lewis has righted the ship as he heads into what will be his 10th season at the helm. Franchise quarterback? Established run game? Stingy defense? Playmaking receivers? And picks to share? Should the AFC Central and the rest of the league be preparing for a Bengals revival? Don’t be too surprised if a trip to Cincy soon means Welcome to the Jungle for future opponents.

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