Cincinnati Bengals Odds to Win the 2008 AFC North

Written by:
Mary Montgomery
Published on:
Aug/03/2008
Bengals 2008

In a division that features the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns (both expected to be solid), the Cincinnati Bengals odds to win the 2008 AFC North have been given some significant value - with a payout potential of $450 for every $100 bet. (see Odds to win the 2008 AFC North futures at BetOnline.com)

Neither the Steelers nor the Browns appear to be on the same level as say the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots or even the San Diego Chargers for that matter. None are listed in single digit odds to win the 2009 Super Bowl. What this means is that the Benglas have a legitimate shot at winning the AFC North this coming season - and again at decent payout odds.

BetOnline.com odds makers and everyone else in the business of creating odds for that matter no doubt looked at the Bengals schedule and determined they were going to have a tough time of things.

SI.com paints the gloomy scenario:

Football coaches like to divide the season into quarters, and the first four games could set the tone for the Bengals. They open and close September with divisional games (at Baltimore, vs. Cleveland). In between, they host the Titans and play at the Giants, both of whom went to the playoffs last season. The Bengals will need to build momentum because their next four weeks they travel to the Cowboys and the Jets, then host the Steelers and Jaguars.

Even a very good team will have a tough time overcoming the above schedule. But the Cincinnati Bengals show promise to be just that....a very good team, especially when it comes to offense.

As if the Bengals don't have enough weapons on offense, the signing of tight end Ben Utecht and the healthy return of halfback Chris Perry could make them even more dangerous. Utecht is physical enough to be an effective blocker on the line and mobile enough to be a threat in the pass game. And Perry is a perfect change-of-pace for Rudi Johnson. He has excellent hands and speed and is a threat to go the distance at any time. Perry says this is the first time since being drafted in 2006 (first round) that he has felt this healthy in training camp.

But what about the defense?

Unfortunately, ESPN.com has ranked the Bengals defense among the worst in the league early on.

ESPN ranked the Bengals secondary as the 28th best in the NFL

Young CBs Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall look to be entrenched for years to come, while veteran Deltha O'Neal will provide depth as a backup and compete with David Jones for the nickel spot. The Bengals have numbers at safety, but also have question marks when it comes to finding starters. Outside of Dexter Jackson, there is not a lot of starting experience. Jackson is a 10-year veteran who provides veteran leadership and toughness but his age and durability are concerns. Marvin White and Chinedum Ndukwe could be the future at safety, but how they handle the responsibility and competition remains to be seen.

ESPN ranked the team's linebackers as the 24th best in the NFL.

Marvin Lewis has said there will be scheme changes for the Bengals' defense, including more 3-4 looks. First-round pick Keith Rivers can do a lot of things well, and he could play any of the spots in the 4-3 and certainly could contribute inside in the 3-4. He should be an instant starter. In the Bengals' base look, Rivers should start on the weak side, with Dhani Jones in the middle and Ahmad Brooks on the strong side, but there is position flexibility here. In the 3-4, these three players all probably would see significant time at the two inside spots. Jones exceeded expectations in 2007 after being signed midyear, while Brooks is a big, talented player who has to stay healthy to get the experience (CJ note: no way?!) needed to progress. Rashad Jeanty has started at strongside linebacker and is a former defensive end who could quickly transition to a pass-rushing outside linebacker. OLB Darryl Blackstock is a similar player who could help in either scheme and will provide help on special teams. The Bengals suffered an inordinate amount of injuries to their linebackers last year, and while the scheme will be altered, this group should be better than it was in 2007.

ESPN ranked the Bengals defensive front as the 24th best in the league

The Bengals slipped a bit up front last season, but DT Domata Peko had a solid season in his first year as a starter. Peko can stack effectively at the point of attack and teams with John Thornton to form a solid duo against the run. Justin Smith was lost on the outside, and his speed off the edge will be missed, but Cincinnati added Antwan Odom after he had a breakout 2007 season in Tennessee. Robert Geathers, who had a roller-coaster season in 2007, will play opposite Odom. Cincinnati is decent against the run but needs a more potent pass rush from the front four.

BetOnline.com had The Steelers listed with even odds to win the 2008 AFC North Division; The Cleveland Browns with odds of +160 for a payout potential of $160 for every $100 bet. The Baltimore Ravens were listed with +600 odds.

-----

Mary Montgomery, Gambling911.com

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