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Pete Prisco Picks the Bengals to make the Playoffs


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Playoff ready? Pats plus five who might see January

July 13, 2009

By Pete Prisco

CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Tell Pete your opinion!

Pick the one team that wasn't in the NFL playoffs in 2008 that will be in 2009.

That's easy. New England is it. Tom Brady is back, so they will be back.

It's that simple.

With Brady back running their high-octane offense, the Patriots will win the AFC East and push for a Super Bowl.

So eliminating the Patriots, let's make it harder. What other teams have a chance to go from playoff watcher last season to playoff team in 2009?

I came up with five, with the Cincinnati Bengals being at the top of the list. Call it gut instinct, but I think the return of Carson Palmer will propel the Bengals to the playoffs.

Yes, they play in a tough division with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, the two participants in the AFC Championship Game last season, but with Palmer coming back the Bengals can play with those two.

Palmer had back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons before missing 12 games in 2008 with an elbow injury. He insists he is 100 percent, which is why I like the Bengals.

They won the division in 2005, and this team will have a better defense than that team did. Watch out, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

The other four teams I considered are the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.

Here is a short breakdown on all five.

Cincinnati Bengals

Why I like them: Palmer is healthy again. When he's on his game, he's among the top five passers in the NFL. Their passing game will be dangerous again. Chad Johnson will be a happy man with Palmer back.

Why I have concern: The running game. Can Cedric Benson prove to be more than a one-hit wonder for this team? Benson is their guy now and he does have a good pedigree, even if it didn't work out in Chicago as the Bears' first-round pick. Even so, there are questions about his ability to be a featured back. He needs to show that his 2008 season was not an aberration.

Key player for playoff chances: Palmer. He has to be back to his pre-injury form. If he is, they will push the Ravens and the Steelers for the division title. That's how good he is as a passer.

Improving area that must keep getting better: The defense. They finished 12th in the league in defense last season and with a lot of young rising players --- like corner Leon Hall -- they should be even better.

Playoff chances: Good. I think they will be a wild-card team at the least -- even in a tough division.

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Always welcome outside love ^_^

I do as well. Atleast one analyst has his head on straight.

I predict nothing less then the AFC championship.

I see us playing the Texans/Colts. Unfortunately i don't think our young team has the calm cool collective-ness that Superbowl teams need. Were too young.

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Thinking we will win our first game against the Broncos is one thing. To think we will be in the playoffs is another. The whole, "why not us" theme can in fact apply to anyone, but I can't by the fact we play in the AFCN. It should prove to be a more interesting season for sure though !!!

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I know this really doesn't fit in this topic, exactly, but I didn't think it worthy of a thread of it's own....

I work downtown, and my parking lot is a block away from the practice fields next to St Paul's Cathedral, and so I end up driving by them twice a day

I want to report that this morning 7:30am-ish there were 3 or 4 18 wheelers being loaded up with practice field equipment to be hauled to Georgetown

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Thinking we will win our first game against the Broncos is one thing. To think we will be in the playoffs is another. The whole, "why not us" theme can in fact apply to anyone, but I can't by the fact we play in the AFCN. It should prove to be a more interesting season for sure though !!!

I believe this team has the talent to make it to the playoffs. They have some things to figure out, though.

1. O-line MUST play better. That is the key to winning this season.

2. The running game. This is dependant on the o-line, but was still an issue last year. They got it together towards the end of the season, but hopefully it keeps getting better.

3. This team needs better play-calling on offense. I'm not going to go into my opinions on Brat right now because he supposedly spent the whole offseason retooling his playbook. I'd like to see him be more aggresive with play calling and a lot less predictable. Throw a couple of gadget plays in just to keep the defense off-balance. Try some new formations. Get creative.

That's my two cents. If the three things I listed improve and the defense is as good (or better) as last year, I think this team can make the playoffs. But who knows?

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I'll be the first to climb right on the playoff train of thought if everything works out.

If Carson is 100% that goes a long way.

If the O-line plays to standard or better, I think it will solve a TON of the issues this offense had problems with last year. The improved o-line play would better the running game, allow Carson time, and allow the WR's to run a full route before Carson is planted into the ground.

If all of that happens AND the defense can play "at least" as well as it did to end the season against the sh*tty offenses it faced, then yeah, the Bengals have a pretty good shot at it. It may prove to be a bit much to ask all at the same time, but maybe they can hang in long enough to start the season and make a run after the middle of the season. Who knows, but once again, I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing this team take the field !!!

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