The AFC North often amounts to a contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, with the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns bringing up the rear. Not much appears to have changed for the Browns, but Steve Wyche of NFL.com sensibly argues that the Bengals could be a force to be reckoned with in 2012.â†µ
The Bengals don't tend to follow up strong seasons with better ones, but now could be the time. Free-agent cornerbacks Jason Allen and Terence Newman aren't special players, but defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer finds ways to resurrect DBs who fell off elsewhere. The acquisition of RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis is going to look very savvy come midseason. He's a reliable, do-it-all guy. Not much flash, but very sound. Few teams appeared to have killed it like Cincy did in the draft, nabbing six players in the first four rounds who could contribute right away, leading with CB Dre Kirkpatrick and guard Kevin Zeitler.â†µ
The Bengals had one of the best drafts of any team, grabbing Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Thompson, Orson Charles and Penn State's Devon Still in addition to Kirkpatrick and Zeitler. They'll add their new talent to a defense that was already pretty good, along with a burgeoning offense that features 2011 rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. The Bengals went to the playoffs last season, and there's no reason to think they can't go back.â†µ
For more on the Bengals, check out Cincy Jungle. For more on the Steelers, there's Behind The Steel Curtain.