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2016 is the Year, I think...

July 8, 2016
Article by Jacob Geiser

The 2016 NFL season is slowly creeping up on us, and with that comes another year of waiting. Fans will sit and wait for the prized NFL playoff berth. For Bengals fans, it has been a long time coming. Last season was almost the year, but then it wasn't. The begging question (the same one for the past 5 years) is this the year the Bengals win?

I have taken the leap of faith the past 3 years, and this year I feel the most confident. Why? Andy Dalton. Andy Dalton was the obvious missing piece last season after getting hurt. Who would've thought right? Andy Dalton was the so called achilles heel of the Bengals after his first four runs in the playoffs. Dalton had the best season in his young career, if it wasn't cut short I without a doubt believe the Bengals win the game against the Steelers. Kudos to AJ McCarron though, the guy did everything he was asked of and then some.

You may be rolling your eyes at the screen thinking that I believe this is the year. Why not though? The men in orange and black have the 6th easiest schedule coming into the year. That definitely puts the odds of the Bengals at least getting back to the playoffs for the 6th straight year on their side. Getting to square off with the NFC East is a bonus due to the recent mediocrity in the division. I'll break down the schedule more as we get closer to the beginning of the season.

Andy Dalton has weapons all around him. This season is no different than the past few. With the losses of Marvin Jones and Mo Sanu, it will be a bit interesting to see what happens this upcoming year. Tyler Eifert will miss the first few games while recovering from ankle surgery. The rookie Tyler Boyd will look to make a big splash onto the scene come game 1. The running game will need to improve drastically. Jeremy Hill will look to rebound after his sophomore slump, while Giovanni Bernard will look to prove the city why he deserved the extension. If the running game can prove itself effective it will get rid of some of the pressure on Dalton. Either way, Dalton made big strides in his game last season and will build off of it.

Even with the departure of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, I don't expect Dalton to take a step back in his game. Some analyst believe that will be the case, but Dalton has grown a lot in the past few years. New OC Ken Zampese has worked with Dalton during his 6 season in the Queen City. Zampese knows his strengths and I'm sure won't change the offensive scheme too much.

To even further my point, Dalton had the best year of his career last year. You name a statistical category, he topped it. The best sign of his continued trend upward, his QBR, completion percentage and overall rating. The turnovers were down for Dalton, while his TD's were up. He may not have topped his 33 TD's in 2013, but he was a smarter QB. He was the most efficient QB in the red zone. You could see a difference in Dalton compared to 2014.

Just look at how clutch he was, the back forth game against the Ravens showed me a lot from Dalton. He proved it wasn't a fluke after the come from behind win against the Seahawks. A confident, more composed and poised Dalton will look to build off a career year last year.