In an earlier post, we promised to aggregate and keep track of the season previews issued by whomever we happened to read. It is time to make good on that promise and provide a preview of our own (sort of).
First off, an apology, I committed the cardinal sin of over-promising and under-delivering. I said for every outlet that provides a season preview, I would also track down their preview for 2008 so we can start to measure the accuracy of their predictions over time. Well, it turns out I
don't have time am too lazy. So, as an appeal to readers, if you can find last year's prediction, drop a link in the comments and I'll update the post in the future (do the same if you are reading someone's prediction for this year too, I will obviously overlook many)
Some may rightly point out that previews waste everyone's time because there is so much uncertainty in the NFL season that randomness/luck will make anyone's preview look silly in retrospect. I do not disagree but still find forecasts useful and enjoying for many reasons including:
- Speculating is tremendously fun in and of itself
- You can get a good feel for how fans feel about the team
- You can get a good feel for how local media feel about the team
- You can get a good feel for how the rest of the country feels about the team
- You can find out the reasoning behind why people think the team will perform as they believe and what factors they think matter and don't
- You can use previews as a way to measure who appears to predict successfully or not and learn from them
Did I mention you can win money if you predict with success?
So, with that noted, here we go with predictions. We'll begin with our very own WDR official preview and then follow up with a post aggregating previews from other outlets.
Confession: we don't feel confident enough to make one. We barely even feel confident enough to put a range on it. Last year, well, I would love to have been wrong but that was a disaster building since the 2nd of half of the 2006 season and was pretty easy to foresee (you can read it here). But this year? It's hard to say. Lots of talent on offense and a decent defense...but a lot of question marks with blocking and thus, potential health.
We're a "high volatility" team...and we're likely to remain a high vol team during the Carson era. Always capable of winning a lot by riding Carson's talent, but also capable of losing a lot by stumbling on Mike Brown's pitiful management. And the preseason really didn't provide much in the way of clues (unless you consider Carson's ankle a sign of things to come).
Also, we have about 15 different writers, and believe it or not, we really don't agree at all. So, for now, I'll just post the quick thoughts of a few of our writers and then summarize.
From MikeBrownDelendaEst: "To me it really hinges on the Denver game. A win there and we may even squeak out a .500 record. A loss there and there is no telling how low this team ends up. In general, I keep coming to 6-10 or 7-9."
From Eddie Falznutz: "I see us at an optimistic 9-7....a VERY optimistic 9-7."
From Competitiveness: "Best: 9-7 (Maybe 10-6). Worst: 5-11. Prediction: 7-9."
I find myself actually thinking those range of outcomes not large enough, with more skew to the downside just because it's obviously easier to lose than win in the NFL. The biggest factors in my mind come down to the offensive line, health (likely related to the offensive line) and how easy the schedule actually turns out to be. If those factors line up against us or for us I could easily see the Bengals going 3-13 or 11-5 and not feel surprised.
So the official WDR prediction is then some sort of range that is path dependent. With our health and an easier schedule and luck, perhaps 10-6...with a loss vs Denver, injuries, tougher opponents and bad luck, as low as 4 or 5 wins.
Lame, I know, sorry. But important to note is that our range encompasses losing more than winning. Perhaps that's inaccurate but I don't think so. And that's disturbing. Teams with franchise quarterbacks to me should seem to skew towards winning. They put a floor on the downside. But I am not sure if this applies with Mike Brown. That is his power.
Just for kicks, let me go out on my own here (not WDR sanctioned) and go through the schedule and classify the games into the following categories: a) games I think we should be favored without question, b) games where I think it's a toss up, and c) games where I think the other team should favored without question.
Games I Think Bengals Should Be Favored Without Question
Denver - they just seem like a mess, Kyle Orton seems more suited to sling drinks at The Edge Inn than to sling footballs for a pro team (ba dum cha!)
@Oakland - Al Davis, though once great, now is worse than Mike Brown...seriously
Cleveland - like Denver a team in flux, really hard to tell how bad/good they are but at home that should be a win 9 out of 10 times
Detroit - shouldn't go 0-16 again but still can't imagine they will be a tough opponent or favored on the road in any game
Kansas City - if Cassel is healthy (something's up with him, right?) I might put them in the toss up category
Games I Think Are a Toss Up
@Cleveland - in recent years, we just assume Cleveland counts for two wins...I get it but I think perhaps folks mistake their recognition that the Bengals NEED both those wins to have any hope for the fact that we should easily win at Cleveland.
Houston - I am told by everyone they are quite talented and certainly they embarrassed us last year...which I hope plays into our hands actually.
@NYJ - last game in the Meadowlands (if anyone really cares about that piece of crap) and rookie QBs no longer can be totally written off as pushovers after Flacco/Ryan last year.
Games I Think the Other Team Should Be Favored Without Question
@Green Bay - self explanatory
Pittsburgh - a sell out because of Steelers fans. I think WDR may consider a new rule where you can violate the boycott for the Steelers game alone just to prevent those mouth-breathers from filling the stadium and ruining The Cause anyway.
@Baltimore - I am looking for reasons why I think they will become mediocre and can't find any...maybe this finally is the year where the Ray Lewis effect begins to fade?
Chicago - while not driving the Chicago bandwagon, I may sit shotgun. I just think they will be good.
Baltimore - Even at home they seem better than us. This might be a bad time to mention that Michael Oher appears to be quite impressive at tackle so far. At least Ravens fan don't travel like the Steelers.
@Pittsburgh - moving on...
@Minnesota - everything about them is better than us except QB and receiver. And if they're in playoff contention and playing at home...
@San Diego - maybe Merriman will be in jail?
Categories are fungible obviously (NYJ's could be terrible, Favre could lay an egg in Minny) but just roll with it. If you just add up wins in games we're favored and split the toss ups you get a total of 6.5 wins. That seems right but who knows.
This year, what really seems like the better bet is predicting where they finish in the division. Baltimore and Pittsburgh both roughly play the same schedule as us. Both those teams also played in the AFC championship game last year while still having serious flaws they likely improved a little this off season.
While possible, I cannot in good faith say it is probable the Bengals will be able to leap frog either of those teams this year. A 3rd place division finish seems likely. So playoff and superbowl hopes rest on a wild card berth. The most optimistic projections I see out there have us with 10 wins. Last year, even the 11 win Patriots missed the wild card. I have a tough time seeing us in the playoffs this year even with our health.
Gun to my head I'll say 8-8 (Carson stays healthy, wins against Cleveland twice, Denver, Oakland, KC, Detroit, NYJ, @Minnesota). But I put zero confidence on that prediction.