NFL 2018 power rankings countdown No. 30: Cincinnati Bengals

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 31: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens in the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 31: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens in the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

A preview of the Cincinnati Bengals ahead of the 2018 season.

Check back every day for a new 2018 team preview in this year’s NFL power rankings countdown.

Today’s team is the Cincinnati Bengals.

30. Cincinnati Bengals

Keegan’s highest rated player: Geno Atkins, defensive lineman

Biggest strength: Defensive line

Biggest weakness: Secondary

Best offseason move: Drafting Billy Brice

Worst offseason move: Letting Jeremy Hill walk

Game to circle on calendar:  Week 6, at Pittsburgh

Breakout candidate: Joe Mixon, running back

Key players in contract years: Brandon LaFell, Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Trey Hopkins, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Preston Brown, Darqueze Dennard, and Randy Bullock

Offensive preview

The Bengals’ offense is a mixed bag. They are strong in a few areas on the offensive side of the ball, they have a solid running back corps and one of the best receivers in football with A.J. Green, but they also have a mediocre quarterback and offensive line.

Unfortunately, I think the latter will have a bigger impact on the Bengals this year. Andy Dalton has yet to win a single playoff game and hasn’t been much of a difference maker since Hue Jackson left Cincinnati.

The offensive line appears to still be in recovery mode after losing big-time linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, although I do think the selection of Billy Price will improve the interior line.

I expect the Bengals’ running back corps to be strong this season, despite playing behind a mediocre line. Joe Mixon showed some flashes last season, and Giovani Bernard is experienced and polished as a runner.

Despite all of the positives with this backfield, the loss of Jeremy Hill will be noticed. New England got a lot out of an under-utilized Cincinnati running back last season when they brought in Rex Burkhead, and I see a similar scenario playing out with Hill this season, who signed with New England this past spring.

The Bengals obviously have a talented receiver for Dalton to throw to with A.J. Green, but I don’t like the rest of their receiving corps. There are some guys, such as Brandon LaFell and Tyler Eifert, who appear to be past their primes, and the rest are just fairly average receivers. I am not incredibly impressed with this receiving corps, but it could make some waves if John Ross lives up to his draft position.

This offense is fairly underwhelming, with the exception of Green and their backfield.

Defensive preview

The Bengals’ main point of strength this season will be their defensive line, with names like Andrew Billings, Carlos Dunlap, and of course Geno Atkins. The Bengals should have one of the stronger defensive lines in football this season.

They have some potential in their linebacking corps as well. The main players of strength will be Nick Vigil, who will be only 25 when the season starts, and Vontaze Burfict, who is a good talent despite his dangerous attitude on the field. These linebackers won’t win games, but they will be able to dominate in short spurts.

The Bengals’ secondary is a bit more of a problem. They have a solid cornerback in Dre Kirkpatrick, but the rest are fairly underwhelming. The other top Bengals corners — Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson III — have yet to significantly impress.

The Bengals have an experienced safety with George Iloka. He will certainly be one of the better players on the team’s defense. I am a little less impressed with their other safety, Shawn Williams, who had only one interception last year.

This defense has some strong points, but I doubt it will be able to keep up with some of the dynamic offensive players the other AFC North teams have to offer.

Coaching staff/front office preview

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has yet to win a playoff game despite being with the team since 2003. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is his last year in Cincinnati. The Bengals have simply not been a good enough team during his tenure to justify keeping him around for much longer. The only positives to take away from this coaching staff are defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.

The Bengals’ front office has an experienced personnel man with Duke Tobin, but unfortunately it’s hard to trust this Bengals ownership, which makes me a lot less impressed with this team’s front office.

The Bengals’ ownership was a big reason why Carson Palmer was so adamant in his wish to leave Cincinnati, and the team has struggled a fair amount since than. The Bengals also have one of the worst locker rooms in the league, and I don’t believe the ownership has done enough to change this.

There are a lot of changes that need to be made with this Bengals team, and they can start by rebuilding the coaching staff and finding new ownership.

Overall outlook for 2018

This Bengals team had a very short window to make a dent in the AFC playoffs, and it appears it has been closed for a few seasons now. I trust a few of the Bengals’ skill position players and some players on the defensive side of the ball, but that’s about it.

The Bengals need new blood in three very important parts of any NFL team: ownership, coaching staff, and quarterback. This isn’t even the best football team in the state of Ohio.

Next: Top 30 moments in Green Bay Packers history

Previous teams:

31. Miami Dolphins
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers