- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Cincinnati Bengals will make history this year. Not Super Bowl history, but an unprecedented team accomplishment. The Bengals will solidify themselves as one of the best young teams in the NFL by going to the playoffs for a third straight year, something that's never been accomplished for a franchise that dates back to 1968.
The Cincinnati defense is championship caliber. The front four ranks among the best in the league, and this is backed by two ferocious hitters in linebackers Vontaze Burfict and James Harrison. On paper, this is the best defense in the division, and quite possibly the entire NFL. Based solely on the defense, the Bengals will earn a wild-card spot and advance to the divisional round.
Why aren't the Bengals predicted to go further? I have my doubts about quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals have put together an impressive supporting cast around him, which is headlined by wide receiver A.J. Green. And the top two draft picks, tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard, add more playmakers to the offense. But Dalton has a history of not producing in critical situations, whether it's third downs or in the playoffs. This is why the Bengals still rank behind the Ravens in the division and will be one win-and-done in this year's playoffs.
Predicted finish in AFC North: Second