Updated 10:46 PM EDT, Sat, Oct 16, 2021

Cincinnati Bengals 2014 NFL Season Preview: Fantasy Sleepers, Predictions: Can Andy Dalton Finally Get the Bengals Over the Playoff Hump?

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With the NFL season fast approaching, Latino Post looks at the offseason moves that will make or break each team.

Last Season: 11-5 (1st in AFC North, lost in wild card)

Key Additions: QB Jason Campbell, OT Marshall Newhouse, S Danieal Manning, T Will Svitek, CB Darqueze Dennard (1st round), RB Jeremy Hill (2nd round), DE Will Clarke (3rd round), C Russell Bodine (4th round)

Key Losses: DE Michael Johnson, WR Andrew Hawkins, C Kyle Cook, OT Anthony Collins, OLB James Harrison

Games to Watch: Oct. 5 at New England, Oct. 29 vs. Baltimore, Dec. 22 vs. Denver, Dec. 28 at Pittsburgh

Three Questions Heading into the 2014-15 Season:

•1.       Can Andy Dalton's regular season success translate to the playoffs?

There are two sides to Andy Dalton. One led Cincinnati to postseason appearances in each of his first three seasons, a first in franchise history. The other can't get past the wild card round.

The Bengals are 30-18 since the 26-year-old quarterback took over. Dalton doesn't have exceptional arm strength (he can hardly scramble out of the pocket) but he provides stability behind center. He's thrown 80 touchdowns to 49 interceptions and ranked in the league's top ten in completions, passing yards, and passing yards per game.

Dalton trailed only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in touchdowns, notching a career-high 33.

Head coach Marvin Lewis has increased pressure to make it past the wild card. It's multiplied for Dalton. He signed a Colin Kaepernick-esque six-year, $96 million contract just as training camp got underway. It could be worth as much as $114 million depending on playoff performances.

The kicker is that only $12 million is guaranteed. The Bengals can release him after the 2015 season, essentially making this a two-year deal. Regardless, it's a big chunk of money for a quarterback whose completed less than 57 percent of his passes in the postseason.

Dalton has the weapons to succeed. A.J. Green and Marvin Lewis combined for 2,138 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns, highlighted by Lewis' four-touchdown effort against the Jets. Benjarvus Green-Ellis and breakout rookie Giovani Bernard broke out for 1,451 rushing yards on 390 carries.

Cincinnati's pieces are in place for a deep run. It's up to Dalton to make them work.

•2.       Is Giovani Bernard ready for a heavier workload?

Last Sept. 16, Bernard scored two touchdowns in a 20-10 Monday Night win over Pittsburgh. He went on to become the team's best all-around threat.

Bernard caught 56 passes out of the backfield, ran 170 times, and totaled 1,209 yards despite not starting a single game. His impact will be magnified with former running backs coach Hue Jackson moving to offensive coordinator. Jackson's prerogative is to spread out the running game.

Green-Ellis' inconsistency also gives way to the young halfback. He reached career lows in yards per carry, receptions, and receiving yards. The last time Green-Ellis scored double-digit touchdowns he was still in New England.

Bernard already took a bite out of Green-Ellis' game. This season he'll solidify himself as the No. 1 option.

•3.       How does the defensive line replaced Michael Johnson?

Michael Johnson's 3.5 sacks in 2013 weren't indicative of importance to Cincinnati's front line.

He was near-unstoppable against the run and incessantly put pressure on quarterbacks. Johnson was the reason the Bengals allowed only 1,544 yards on the ground last season; fifth overall and second to only the Jets in the AFC.

Tampa Bay snagged Johnson for a franchise tag-worthy $43.75 million over five years. It wasn't a surprise that Johnson left. He's a Pro Bowl-worthy defensive end who commanded a hefty contract, using the money to lock up Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, and Geno Atkins well ahead of Johnson's departure. Wallace tore his ACL on Halloween but expects to be ready for the opener.

Margus Hunt and rookie Will Clarke will see increased role as Gilberry moves to right end. Either way, they step into a comfortable situation with Atkins, Dunlap, and Domata Peko filling out the defensive line.  

Fantasy sleeper:

Giovani Bernard- RB

Bernard is Cincinnati's lead back, regardless of Green-Ellis' experience. He's taken 27 snaps in two preseason contests, the same amount at Dalton, including a one-yard touchdown last weekend.

As if a 1,200-plus yard season wasn't enough, he placed third on the team in receptions. If anything, Bernard is reminiscent of Ray Rice before he broke out. Don't be surprised to see him somewhere close to 300 touches.

Prediction: 10-6

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