After an outstanding performance in the draft and retaining most of its key players while continuing to develop, the Bengals are looking to get over the hump and win a postseason game. To do so requires going through the AFC East, which does not receive enough credit as a tough division.
How will the Bengals perform against each member of the AFC East? Let's take a look.
On paper the Bengals should not have too much trouble with the Bills. Then again, on paper the Bills were supposed to have a ferocious defense last season after the addition of defensive end Mario Williams.
If the Bills defense has not improved, receiver A.J. Green should be able to catch plenty of passes like he has done in the past against Buffalo. Sprinkle in the addition of new weapons such as tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard and Cincinnati could move the ball up and down the field with ease.
The Bills offense is tough to figure out. Kevin Kolb has been mediocre in the past, but rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel could cause the Bengals some issues. Then again, Cincinnati didn't have many problems with Robert Griffin III last year, and one of these names is vastly superior to the other.
Buffalo is building both sides of the football up properly, but Cincinnati is simply the better overall team at the moment.
New York Jets
The Jets may be the consensus worst team in the AFC East. New York didn't really help matters by continuing a quarterback controversy with the selection of rookie Geno Smith. He'll compete with Mark Sanchez for the starting job.
No matter whom the starter is for the Jets, the New York offense is going to have some serious issues moving the ball against an elite Bengals unit headed up by defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
Outside of that, the Bengals offense led by Andy Dalton shouldn't have too many issues moving the ball with Darrelle Revis out of the picture.
The Jets are a franchise in transition, for better or worse. As long as the Bengals take them seriously in preparation it will be an easy contest.
The Dolphins were the big winners of the offseason overall. Mike Wallace joined the fray and is set to be a huge addition to the offense while Ryan Tannehill continues to develop.
Quality linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Dannelle Ellerbee joined the roster via free agency, and then Miami grabbed the best the draft had to offer in Dion Jordan. If healthy, cornerback Brent Grimes rounds out what could be an elite defense.
The Bengals should have no issues with the Miami offense. Wallace is a very familiar foe. The defense could give Cincinnati headaches if the unit meshes together properly.
While Miami may not pop out on paper as a major opponent in 2013, it would be unwise to take the squad lightly. The Dolphins are a sleeper team that could shock Cincinnati and a few other teams next year.
New England may represent the biggest challenge the Bengals have to face in all of 2013. Make no mistake; this is mostly because of Brady, who dissects any defense with relative ease.
Losing Wes Welker was an over-hyped storyline of the offseason considering the team went out and got Danny Amendola and added Aaron Dobson during the draft. Cincinnati's defense will have serious issues shutting down Brady, but that's not necessarily something to be ashamed of at this point.
What doesn't get enough credit in New England is the state of the defense. Vince Wilfork is still a force on the interior and guys like Don't'a Hightower will have a strong year. The cornerback duo of Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard is an underrated pair.
It's hard to tell exactly how this one will play out. The simple matter is, Brady will get his, and it's up to Dalton, Green and his supporting cast to find a way to score enough. It would be unfair to count out Mike Zimmer and his defense entirely, but that's the power of Brady.
Expect Cincinnati to stay competitive in this one. It's early in the season at Week 5, but the matchup will act as a good measure as to how great the 2013 edition of the Bengals can truly be.
Chris Roling is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. His work has appeared on Bleacher Report, Fansided, The Cincinnati Enquirer and more. He is the co-host of a Cincinnati Bengals podcast, @BengalsCentral
You can follow Chris on Twitter @Chris_Roling
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