Looking for the Bengals to take that next step from 9-7 and 10-6?
The Great Leap Forward may be steeped in these five stats in all three phases that can put them over the top.
But offensive coordinator Jay Gruden emerged from the draft with two third-down weapons in receiving tight end
The more should be the merrier. Quarterback
But Dalton's two third-down backs, Brian Leonard and
No one is banking on Bernard catching 61 balls like Rice. But since Kenny Watson caught 52 in 2007, no Bengals back has caught more than 30 passes. Bernard figures to change that some.
SACKS ALLOWED: 51
Just too many for a team that believes it can win it all. The Bengals finished 25th in giving up sacks per pass and gave more than lip service to the time-honored coaching cliché, "Sacks aren't just on the offensive line, but the quarterback, the receivers and the backs."
How else to explain that Pro Football Focus ranked the Bengals the NFL's second-best pass-blocking team? Left tackle
That bit of analysis suggests the Bengals have the stuff up front but need more coordination in the pass game ranging from the pocket to the trenches to the routes. Will another year of experience for the young wide receivers make them more familiar with their hot reads? As Dalton progresses into Year 3, won't his decision-making be quicker to help cut down on sacks? Will a change-of-pace back like Bernard help prevent pass rushers from teeing off?
Here's one of those areas the Bengals hope they can reap the benefits of their kids being in the same system as they head into their third season under Gruden.
Not bad. At No. 15, the Bengals were in the upper half of the NFL. But it was the lowest ranking in any category for a defense that enjoyed its second straight top 7 finish.
When they got them, it sure made things so much easier. The Bengals didn't get a two-pick game until Nov. 4 when cornerback
Does it matter? Of the top five teams in interceptions last year, four didn't make the playoffs.
But does it matter? The Bengals were 7-4 when they had at least one pick (4-1 on the road) and 2-1 with multiple interceptions.
And they'll be looking to replace the three lost with the departure of safety Chris Crocker, along with
RUSHING TDs: 11
The Bengals are on the right track with The Law Firm after their most since 2006. But it's not a number that matches up with the elite offenses, except for the dozen posted by the fourth-ranked Broncos and the 10 by the second-ranked Saints. But you can do that when your quarterbacks are Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, respectively.
The top-ranked Patriots scheme helped out Tom Brady with 25 rushing TDs, RGIII dashed fifth-ranked Washington to 22 and the third-ranked Lions ran for 17 TDs. It is the answer to every red zone woe, where the Bengals finished 16th.
The Final Four consisted of the Ravens (17 rushing TDs) vs. the Pats and the 49ers (17) vs. the Falcons. The Bengals haven't had 17 rushing TDs in a season since the '97 club put up 23. The average rushing TDs for the NFL's top 10 offenses last season?
KICKOFF RETURN AVERAGE
If you want to call it a blemish, it is the only one on a sterling 2012 for the Bengals special teams. Add up their league rankings in the kicking game's 10 major categories and their number of 115 led the NFL in an effort spurred by
Cincinnati's 19th ranking returning kickoffs and 20th ranking covering them were the club's lowest finishes, and the Bengals still finished 15th in the NFL when it came to the opponents average drive start. But Cincinnati's average was doomed by its worst play of the season, Denver wide receiver Trindon Holliday's 105-yard kick return that opened the second half and put the Bengals in a 17-3 hole that was just too big to extract themselves.
On the other side, Bengals wide receiver
It's worth noting that the Super Bowl-champion Ravens led the league in kick return average and two others in the top five (No. 2 Seattle and No. 5 Minnesota), made the playoffs.