By Eli Nachmany
While the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens can’t seem to get their act together this offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals are emerging as a surprise favorite in the 2012 AFC North.
After signing BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Travelle Wharton and Terrence Newman, the team has added a solid, veteran presence to their already talented, young lineup.
Despite the losses of Keith Rivers and Cedric Benson, the team looks rather set to eclipse ten wins come next season.
In regards to the upcoming NFL draft, the Bengals have two first-round selections and have the unique opportunity to add two first-round talents in late April.
As for the rival Steelers and Ravens, both teams have seen significant losses in terms of veteran talent.
Pittsburgh has already lost James Farrior and Chris Hoke while they stand to see Rashard Mendenhall miss a portion of next season. Mike Wallace’s contract issues are still unresolved and the team’s depth chart looks to be a mess as 2012 approaches.
In Baltimore, the losses of Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding and secondary depth will hurt. Past that, Ray Rice is upset about the absence of a long-term extension and will have trouble focusing on the upcoming season.
The Ravens feature an aging defensive lineup with an older Ed Reed and a declining Ray Lewis. Offensively, Joe Flacco is overconfident and may press too hard in 2012 to assert himself as the ‘best quarterback in the NFL’.
Cincinnati, looking as strong as ever, could slip into the top spot in the division and never look back. This is a mentally-tough, physically mean team that has the mettle and the will to win football games.
This Bengals ballclub, led by gritty wideout AJ Green and young, smart signal caller Andy Dalton, is a fresh breath of air in comparison to Bengal teams of the past. After a banner year in 2011, there’s no reason the team can’t build on their successes and capture a division title in 2012.