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A Year in the Life of the Bengals – 2006

Andrew Dunn

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Following a heart-wrenching ending to the 2005 season that featured a devastating injury to Carson Palmer, hopes were still high in Cincinnati for a 2006 Super Bowl run.  Even with Palmer bouncing back from a major knee injury, he’d burst onto the scene with an MVP-caliber season the year prior.  Sadly for us in the Queen City, 2006 would ultimately mark a return to the dark ages of prior seasons, and also had late-season meltdowns we’ve grown so used to in the last decade.

Fun fact – your friendly writer of this walk down memory lane was named Time Magazine Person of the Year.  True story.  Or, rather, ‘You’ was the winner.  Beyonce topped the music charts with Irreplaceable, and the social media age kicked into full swing.  Users all over the world were using MySpace, but Twitter was created in 2006, and Facebook became open to all individuals over the age of 13.  More fun facts about that Facebook note – Mark Zuckerberg was offered $1 billion by Yahoo for Facebook, which he turned in “LOL nah” fashion.  The man is now worth over $72 billion, so I think he’s okay with his decision.

Yet another solid draft from the Bengals set expectations higher, as the team landed four guys who would be key pieces of the team for the next handful of years.  Johnathan Joseph (24th overall) and Andrew Whitworth (55th) became top five players at their positions in time, while Frostee Rucker (91st) and Domata Peko (123rd) were good additions to a defensive line in need of upgrades, outside of Justin Smith, of course.

We’ll get to the games and season momentarily, but it’s worth mentioning here that 2006 was a year marred by legal troubles in Cincinnati, which has continued to hover around the team as something of a bad reputation.  All told, nine players would be arrested over the course of the offseason and regular season.  Among those, second-year receiver Chris Henry had four separate incidents, Eric Steinbach was arrested for boating under the influence, and veteran cornerback Deltha O’Neal got caught driving while intoxicated.

Odell Thurman, who was incredible during his 2005 rookie campaign, was arrested for a DUI while in the midst of a four-game suspension he was already serving.  He would wind up sitting out 2006 altogether, and the shame of all this is that Thurman’s final NFL game would wind up being that 2005 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, ultimately making him one of the biggest what-ifs that I can think of.

This slew of legal troubles played one of the big parts in what became the downward spiral of this era in Cincinnati.

Onto the season – the Bengals went 8-8, finishing in 2nd place in the AFC North behind the 13-3 Baltimore Ravens.  Palmer jumped back under center and had a Pro Bowl season to the tune of 4,035 yards, 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.  Rudi Johnson also registered another stellar season, finishing with 1,309 yards and 12 touchdowns.

And, of course, with the success of Palmer came success of three Bengals wide outs.  TJ Houshmandzadeh led the team with 90 catches, racking up 1,081 yards and nine scores.  Chad Johnson continued to stand out as a league trash talker and something of a distraction (he would unveil the Chad Ocho Cinco jersey this season), but also as a top-tier receiver, as he totaled 1,369 yards and seven touchdowns.  Finally, the young Henry had nine touchdowns on his own, which came on only 36 receptions.

Robert Geathers was one of the standout defensive performers, pacing the team with 10.5 sacks, with All-Pro defensive end Justin Smith just behind him with 7.5.  Landon Johnson filled in admirably in Thurman’s absence and after the David Pollack injury (more on that in a bit) with 132 tackles and three forced fumbles.  And while Detlha O’Neal and the rookie Joseph stood out in the secondary, it was Kevin Kaesviharn’s four sacks, six picks and forced fumble that topped the list.

The Bengals began the season with a dominating defensive performance against the Kansas City Chiefs, helped by an injury to Chiefs’ quarterback Trent Green (on a hit Robert Geathers would’ve been crucified for in today’s NFL).  The beat rolled on for a couple weeks as the Bengals started 3-0 following wins over the Browns and at Heinz Field over the Steelers (yes, really).

Note about that game two win over the Browns – this was the game that effectively ended David Pollack’s career.  Pollack suffered a C6 vertebra fracture, a non-paralyzing broken neck, which marked the end of his 2006 season.  He would get cleared for some light activity in early 2007 following months of rehab, but would wind up retiring later down the road, not willing to risk his overall health after the injury.

The team was in prime position for another playoff run as a Wild Card team late in the season as they sat at 8-5.  They dropped game 14 on a Monday Night in Indianapolis (shocked?), which led to a key matchup with the Denver Broncos on Christmas Eve 2006.  Late in the game, Palmer connected with Houshmandzadeh on a 10-yard touchdown pass, pulling the Bengals within an extra point of tying the Broncos.

I remember this vividly – family and friends, gathered to celebrate the holidays, began clapping and high-fiving, while my dad and I looked at each other nervously (yep, I was a little pessimist even then).  My 16-year old pessimism piped up loud enough to try to remind everyone of the extra point that was still to come… and sure enough, the beginning of the Cincinnati sports curse was upon us.

The extra point snap sailed through holder Kyle Larson’s hands, the conversion was no good, and the Bengals would lose 24-23 to fall to 8-7.  One week later, the Bengals lost their home finale in overtime against the Steelers, a shame since their entire playoff scenario had played into their favor.  That is to say that had they won, the Bengals would have been playoff-bound again.  But, the Steelers were the spoilers once more, as they finished 8-8 alongside Cincinnati.

It was a disappointing end to what should’ve been a much more enjoyable season for Bengals fans.  There was an expectation that this team could follow up a tremendous 11-5 season and overcome the injury to Palmer.  However, injuries and legal troubles contributed to overall struggles on the field, leading the Bengals back into the depths of…. Non-playoffness.

Next week comes 2007, which was the last season in which the Cleveland Browns had a winning record (just in case Bengals and Reds woes have you down).  Tune in next week to see how our Bengals fared!

Andrew graduated from the University of Kentucky (direct your hate tweets to @atdu222) with a degree in Business Management and minor in Communications. You can find some of his previous works on Bleacher Report. Andrew is a lifelong fan of the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds... he was born in 1990, so his life as a sports fan has been pretty crappy until you extend the boundaries to Lexington. Andrew works full time for Western & Southern Financial Group and is married with a 1 year old daughter.

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Cincinnati Bengals

A Year in the Life of the Bengals – 2010

Andrew Dunn

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After a surprising 2009 season in which the Bengals swept the AFC North division, there was a lot of optimism surrounding the team in 2010, especially after they landed Terrell Owens in free agency.  Granted, there was also plenty of criticism of that move, as it now took two of the biggest mouths in the league (T.O. and Ochocinco – T.Ochocinco, if you will), and stuck them together on the same team.  Still, at the end of the day, Owens supplied something the Bengals lacked in 2009 following the departure of T.J. Houshmandzadeh – a true No.2 receiver.  How did this turn out?

Oh we’ll get there, but 2010 supplied some pretty solid fun facts for the week.  Social media took another step forward this year, as Instagram was launched.  Eight years later, I have an account, but haven’t posted in quite a few years, and even those posts came about via persuasion from my wife.  Furthering the social media age, the iPad was also released in 2010, giving us yet another platform to stare at.  And finally, one of my personal favorite Disney movies, Toy Story 3 was released, topping the movie charts and nearly crushing fans’ hearts after the end of the 15-year saga (if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean).

While I remember plenty of folks being wildly optimistic about the 2010 version of the Cincinnati Bengals, I will toot my own horn a bit and admit I was not.  Sure, the adrenaline was still in place from the 2009 season, but the back-to-back losses to the Jets had left a sour taste in my mouth, and I was in the group that wasn’t impressed by the Owens signing.  He and Ochocinco had already been incredibly talkative together in front of cameras before he was signed, and that couldn’t lead anywhere good, in my humble opinion.  The 2018 Hall of Famer put up a good season in his lone appearance in Bengal stripes (we’ll get there), but this team had a wildly different look.

The offseason, unlike prior seasons, hadn’t been all bad – or, unproductive, if you will.  Aside from Owens, the Bengals were quiet in free agency, but the 2010 Draft produced a couple names that are still in Cincinnati to this day.  Carlos Dunlap was drafted in the second round and Geno Atkins in the fourth.  The Bengals also selected Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shpley in this draft, which at the time shaped the offense up to have a starting tight end and slot receiver.

In a year I’ve dubbed The Circus Year, the Bengals finished a rotten 4-12, in the cellar of the AFC North – yep, even behind the Browns, who were 5-11.  They started 2-1 following wins over the Ravens and Panthers, but would go on to lose their next 10 contests, before winning two of their final three games.  Now, to give the Bengals a break, it’s worth pointing out that in this 10 game losing streak, seven of those games were one possession.  Say what you want about answering the call late in games, but that’s horrible luck in one-possession games to lose that many of them.

There was also an indication of fan reaction to the team during this time – four of their eight home games were blacked out (back when that was a thing).  Clearly, the fans were frustrated by this point, even one year removed from a playoff season.

In what turned out to be his last season (more on that in a bit) in Cincinnati, Carson Palmer was once again decent, but showed plenty of flaws.  He threw for 3,970 yards, 26 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.  His favorite target that year was not long-time teammate Chad Ochocinco, but the newly signed Owens.  Ocho-Uno caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine touchdowns, a pretty good turnout for a guy who’d been considered past his prime at this point, even dating back to 2009 when he was in Buffalo.

The aforementioned Ochocinco was… okay.  He caught 67 balls for 831 yards and four touchdowns – it feels silly to call that just okay, but by the measures he had established for his entire career, this was something of a letdown.  Meanwhile the rookies Shipley and Gresham each caught 52 passes and combined for seven touchdowns.

The running game was fairly strong behind the legs of Cedric Benson – his 3.5 yards per carry was fine at best, but he did accumulate 1,111 yards and score seven touchdowns.  Unfortunately, Benson struggled with ball control, fumbling the ball seven times.

On defense, there were some showings that were impressive, but from an overall standpoint, the unit wasn’t nearly as good as it would become.  Star cornerback Johnathan Joseph – in his final season in Cincinnati – put up what could arguably have been his worst season since he was a rookie, tallying only three interceptions and 42 tackles (in 12 games).  Rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap notched an impressive 9.5 sacks in only nine games, while Geno Atkins logged three of his own.

A few paragraphs up, I mentioned that this was The Circus Year, partly due to the media party that accompanied Owens and Ochocinco being on the same team.  However, this was largely a name I came up with in hindsight – huge team changes would come in 2011, and once a bunch of new guys were in place, not only did the two receivers seem like a circus, but so did Palmer’s offseason antics (more on that next week).

And so it begins – the official entrance into the current era of Bengals football in which we currently reside.  Old faces are out, some new ones are in, but of course, one remains the same.  Tune in next week!

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Cincinnati Bengals

Colin Cowherd isn’t high on the Bengals

James Rapien

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Colin Cowherd isn’t a believer in the 2018 Bengals.

He made an Adam Jones reference (even though Pacman isn’t on the team) and picked Marvin Lewis’ squad to finish dead last in the AFC North.

In Cowherd’s defense, Vegas isn’t high on the Bengals either. Watch the video below:

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Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals and Vegas are at odds

Russell Heltman

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When a franchise like the Cincinnati Bengals hasn’t won a playoff game in 27 years and has missed the postseason in back-to-back seasons, expectations should assuredly be tempered.

Vegas oddsmakers are playing their part in that argument.

The Bengals have made plenty of changes on and off the field over the past few months: Revamping the offensive line with Cordy Glenn and Billy Price, new systems on both sides of the ball, and a rekindled hope for guys like John Ross.

What did all that mean to experts in Sin City? One less win in 2018 and a bottom-ten chance at playing meaningful games in January.

Las Vegas set the Bengals over/under at 6.5 games tied for the 4th-lowest win projection of any team in the league. The three teams below them being the Cleveland Browns (5.5 wins), Arizona Cardinals (5.5 wins), and the New York Jets (6 wins).

Now Vegas does favor Cincinnati to eclipse that total (-130) but scraping by through another 7-win season isn’t going to cut it for Bengals fans.

The low expectations from national pundits shouldn’t be surprising. They clearly value two things the Bengals didn’t make a change to this offseason: Head Coach and Quarterback.

In the modern NFL, the barometer for success is relatively unchanged with a new offensive line coach or a fresh defensive system. It’s about the man under center and the leader on the sidelines, both of which are still justified question marks as Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis head into their eighth season together.

Just take a look at the highest O/U projection among NFL teams, 11 wins for the New England Patriots. That has almost everything to do with the greatest quarterback/head coach duo in history returning for another campaign.

Coinciding with the low win expectation, Vegas pegged the Bengals with the eighth-worst odds to make the playoffs and at first glance, it’s difficult to argue with that projection.

“What have you done for me lately?”

This might as well be the slogan for the NFL, and lately, the Bengals haven’t done much. 13 wins in the past two seasons, the worst offense in the NFL a year ago. Those are some bad optics and Vegas used them accordingly, but call me crazy, Cincinnati will be a different group in 2018. This Bengals team is a serious sleeper and I’d take that over any day of the week. Dalton and Co. have almost zero expectations outside of Paul Brown Stadium and that’s when they shine brightest.

Just look at what this team has done over the past decade.

In 2009 they were projected to be a bottom feeder after Carson Palmer’s elbow injury sent them on a 4-11-1 spiral the year before.

The Cardiac Cats won the division.

After the disastrous Terrell Owens experiment sent them right back to four wins, plenty of media outlets gave them no chance at success in 2011.

Wild Card berth from a bunch of rookies.

The bottom line is don’t count this team out when most of the “experts” have them on the margins, recent history says everyone should be jumping on those plus odds to make the playoffs. Vegas is more than justified with their projections for the Bengals season but don’t be surprised when they sneak into the playoffs and defy expectations once again.

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