Spread Investor – Despite the Patriots being the AFC favorites this season (13/4 odds to win the AFC), the Bengals are undervalued in the market and a future wager on them can set you up to profit during playoff time.
The Bengals enter 2016 with about as big of a black eye on the franchise as you can have. Essentially having the playoff game vs the Steelers wrapped up, the Bengals yet again managed to find a way to end an otherwise successful season. The theme that this team can’t win a playoff game sounds all too familiar. Fans and spectators doubt Andy Dalton in the playoffs, where he is 0-4 lifetime and the Bengals are 0-5 since 2011. They haven’t won a playoff game since 1990 when the team from Houston was called the Oilers.
The Bengals don’t deserve the brutally negative perception they receive, though, especially not to the extreme that most of the public takes it to. In fact, the Bengals enter 2016 as one of the elite teams in the AFC with a solid defense in the front & back, a strong offensive line, and a quarterback who had 25 TDs to 7 INTs along with a 10-2 record before breaking his thumb last season.
Andy Dalton made the playoffs as a rookie, a sophomore, and again in Years 3 & 4. You can’t blame the guy for some early career success and stumbling in the playoffs his first 2 years. Cam Newton didn’t even make the playoffs as a rookie and lost in the first round in his second season. Promising up-and-comer Jameis Winston wasn’t even close to the playoffs last year. The playoff loss to the Chargers in Dalton’s third year was a complete meldtown and falls on his shoulders. Dalton had 3 turnovers at home in a year where the Bengals were 8-0 at home.
2014 seemed like the year Dalton was turning the corner as the Bengals beat Denver in primetime in a key December game. The “big game” monkey seemed to have gotten off of Dalton’s back and the Bengals were in the playoffs again. But no AJ Green & Tyler Eifert due to injuries and the Bengals had a quick exit in the 1st round to the Colts. 2015 was definitely a turning point for Dalton – wins over Kansas City, Pittsburgh, a comeback win vs. Seattle, and a 21 point primetime win – but a 10-2 start to the season on 25 TDs & 7 INTs was derailed by a broken thumb. It makes you think what could have happened in that playoff game after the Bengals led 16-15 late despite McCarron putting up a 0 in the first half.
The AFC favorites are still the Patriots, of course. At odds of 7 to 1 though, they offer basically three times less of a payout than a wager on the Bengals would. Wagering 20 to 1 doesn’t mean the Bengals necessarily have to win the Super Bowl (or even make it to the Super Bowl) for you to profit. If the Bengals are fortunate enough to get a home game and make the AFC Championship game, on a 20 to 1 bet you can profit by hedging your wager and wagering appropriately on their opponent. If they face the Patriots in the AFC Championship and Brady is destined for a Super Bowl, you can make a wager on the Patriots and protect yourself. The point is the 20 to 1 upside is very high.
The Bengals have more playmakers on offense than most people think and rookie WR Tyler Boyd will make an immediate impact with Marvin Jones & Mohammed Sanu leaving in free agency. They may have a little bit of a tough time early in the season when Tyler Eifert is out and that will affect how they perform in the redzone, but he’s expected to be back in Week 4-5. In the meantime Giovani Bernard provides a weapon in the run game (he figures to take roughly 40% of the carries to start the season) but more importantly is his ability in the passing game to make plays out of the backfield as well as in the slot. Andy Dalton spreading the ball around to AJ Green, Tyler Boyd, and Giovani Bernard on short reads will help get this team by without Eifert. If Brandon LaFell can stay healthy and contribute a little it can make this offense explosive once Eifert gets up to speed and in shape. Jeremy Hill has looked great in preseason and seems to have overcome any of the negative effects he might have had from the fumble he had in the playoff game last year. He’s motivated and a thick-skinned player.
Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, and Michael Johnson form a strong front 4 on defense. There is depth on this line too. They may be a little lost at first without Vontaze Burfict at linebacker for the first 3 games, but Karlos Dansby comes over from Cleveland and he’s a great addition to this defense. Dre Kirkpatrick and Pacman Jones take care of the outside positions and the secondary is a strong product of a good system that has helped Dalton get to the playoffs early in his career despite his deficiencies. Dalton seems to have taken his game to another level so with a deep defense this season and extra motivation, 20 to 1 seems too good.
The AFC North seems to be either the Bengals or the Steelers to take. Ravens have improved but aren’t 100% healthy. So if Cincinnati is able to win the North and get a home game in the playoffs that increases their chances of getting to the AFC Championship game. If they land a 1st round bye, which they were on pace for this season pre-Dalton’s injury, then it’s just one win to the AFC Championship Game.
This is a make or break year for the Bengals in Dalton’s 6th year with an experienced defense who has gone through growing pains. NFL teams go through growing pains and breakthroughs, this seems like a year the Bengals can do so in the playoffs.
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