Coming off of a 4-12 season in 2010, not much was expected out of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2011 season, as many fans were calling on head coach Marvin Lewis to be fired and owner Mike Brown to resign his role as general manager of the team as well.
However, the team shocked many with their fantastic play in 2011, finishing with a record of 9-7 and making it into the playoffs for the first time in a while. A lot of it had to do with what the Bengals did in the 2011 NFL Draft, selecting wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton in the first and second rounds of the draft.
Both players went on to make it into the Pro Bowl in their first season in the NFL together, with Dalton throwing 20 touchdown passes for over 3,000 yards and Green catching 65 passes for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns for the year. Even though the Bengals were able to make it into the playoff in 2011, they were no match for the talented Houston Texans in the Wild Card Game, losing by the score of 31-10.
Regardless of the playoff performance, it was still an important step in the right direction for the Cincinnati Bengals, and will have a lot to prove in the 2012 season. In the 2012 NFL Draft the team bolstered a defensive weakness by drafting a highly-touted cornerback by the name of Dre Kirkpatrick in the first round, who played an influential role in the dominant defense the Alabama Crimson Tide had when they won the National Championship in 2011. The first round pick actually came out of the trade that sent Carson Palmer to the Oakland Raiders, so the Bengals were able to get a talented player in return in the trade and still have a second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft from the trade as well.
In 2012 the Bengals will face a fairly easy schedule early on that will become more difficult as the season progresses. The team will have a difficult matchup to start the year, facing off against the Baltimore Ravens on the road, but after that the team will then face the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Miami Dolphins. All of these teams are in rebuilding mode and should favor the Bengals as they will look to get off to a good start to the season.
The most difficult stretch of games for the Bengals in the 2012 season will be from weeks 14 through 17, as they will go against the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens. Both the Cowboys and Eagles had down seasons in 2011 and will look to come back with a vengeance in 2012, providing a difficult matchup for the Bengals, along with going against AFC North rivals in the Steelers and Ravens. If the Cincinnati Bengals truly want to improve upon last year’s performance and make it into the playoffs once again, they will need to finish the year strong against these talented teams.
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