The Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs for four straight years. They haven't won a playoff game in that time, but the pieces are in place for the Bengals to change that this year. Here are four reasons why the Bengals are guaranteed to make the playoffs this season.
1. Depth At Corner
Terence Newman is in Minnesota, but the Bengals should still feel good about their depth at corner. They've got four first round picks at the position, including two young players. Leon Hall is a veteran and could play the slot this season before he eventually shifts to safety. Adam Jones is still playing well at one outside spot, and Dre Kirkpatrick could have a breakout season. He flashed the potential that made him a first rounder late last season and is having a strong camp. Darqueze Dennard is in his second year and won't be asked to do much more than be the fourth corner in Dime packages. That's some serious depth at a critical position.
2. Powerful Running Game
Jeremy Hill didn't do much his first two months, averaging less than 30 yards per game. But from that point on, he looked like the player the Bengals thought they were getting when they traded up for Ki-Jana Carter many years ago. Hill averaged over 100 yards per game to close the season and could be even better last year. He's a big, durable back that will make things easier on Andy Dalton. The Bengals used their first two draft picks on offensive lineman, so the running game should be strong for years to come.
3. Improved Defensive Line
Geno Atkins wasn't 100 percent last season and he struggled at times as a result. He's looked fantastic in the preseason and should have a monster year. Michael Johnson is back after getting cut by Tampa Bay. A return to Cincinnati could help him look like the player he was before his big contract with the Buccaneers. Johnson's return also frees up Wallace Gilberry to move back to a situational pass rusher. He wasn't as sharp in a full-time role last season. Pat Sims is also back after doing little in Oakland.
4. Healthier Receivers
The Bengals were forced to start Rex Burkhead during the playoffs because of all their injuries. A.J. Green missed three games and the playoff game last season, but should be healthy and back to being one of the NFL's top WRs. Marvin Jones missed all of last season, but showed promise before. Dalton's best string of games came when he and Jones were playing well together. Tight End Tyler Eifert missed all but one game last season. He should finally be healthy and give the Bengals a legitimate threat at TE that they haven't had. Green, Jones and Eifert are arguably the Bengals' three best weapons for Dalton. Getting them back is huge.
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