Bengals’ Super Bowl LII Blueprint Starts Now

Bengals' Super Bowl LII Blueprint Starts Now

 Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 Cincinnati Bengals suffered their first losing season in six years. Recent success has been good. But, the bottom line is the Super Bowl.

The NFL offseason is officially upon us. Super Bowl parties have left fans both giddy and frustrated. But, for Bengals fans, the anticipation never ends. With the Atlanta Falcons making their way to the Big Dance, there should be room for the Bengals at the table. A.J. Green let his feelings be known on free agency and the draft. Now, it’s time for owner Mike Brown to hear his players’ pleas.

Getting to the Super Bowl is every player’s fantasy. Seeing their favorite team run from the tunnel in the big game is every fan’s dream. But, what’s holding the Bengals back? Cincinnati has made two trips to the Championship game. But, those runs were made in the 80’s. In essence, twenty-seven years have passed since the Bengals had a chance to hoist a Lombardi. The blueprint is there. It just needs to be put into play.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was able to guide Atlanta to the Super Bowl in his second year at the helm. The turnaround was surprising and seemingly complete. They did it with a high-scoring offense and a defense that played lights out when necessary. They went to free agency and got the pieces that would get the team over the hump. Alex Mack and Mohamed Sanu were talented additions that delivered in their first season.

The most important thing to remember? Experts didn’t pick the Falcons to be in contention for the Silver Trophy. And this year, the Bengals are a longshot.

Bengals' Super Bowl LII Blueprint Starts Now

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lewis Has To Deliver

It’s not going to change without the top man getting it right. Marvin Lewis has to have the lights go on and convey that message to his players. He’s known for his catchy phrases and t-shirts with slogans of encouragement. But, in year 15, the cutesy-pie sayings aren’t going to get it. It’s now do-or-die time and the pressure is on.

The last time Lewis was on the hot seat, he delivered with a 12-4 season. The 6-9-1 showing of 2017 hasn’t gotten any reaction from Brown. Maybe this is his way of showing Lewis that playtime is over. It’s time to put up or shut up.

Lewis has undoubtedly seen the results of Quinn’s influence on the Falcons. He even remarked how much it hurt to see certain teams in the playoffs. The same teams that the Bengals had success against made the postseason. That should light a fire in Lewis’ belly and get things going. But, it has to be a year-long desire. It has to make him feel like he’s incomplete if his team fails to make the AFC Championship Game. Then he has to feel like he’s failed if they miss the next level. Isn’ he a defensive guru like Quinn? Time to show it.

Having the best record as Bengals’ head coach means nothing if there are no meaningful wins to boost the accomplishment.

Bengals' Super Bowl LII Blueprint Starts Now

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Reloading Of The Rifle

Andy Dalton can lead this team to the Super Bowl. Okay, I said it. AJ McCarron has quickly become a fan darling but this is Dalton’s team. Brown has seen fit to pay the man a king’s ransom to get the job done. He can do it. 

The problem is simple: he needs help. It’s not rocket science to figure out when Green went down the offense suffered. But, that’s something that also worked to Dalton’s advantage. When his “crutch” went down in Week 11, he was forced to see and feel the entire offensive system as a whole. No, I’m not saying Dalton was always keying on Green. Having a star player will cause that to happen. But, when he didn’t have that safety net, he used what he had available.

With A.J. gone, Brandon LaFell was able to produce. As Dalton got comfortable, he helped LaFell tally 862 yards and 64 receptions. To be honest, those numbers were eerily similar to the stats he posted during his 2014  campaign in New England. Dalton effectively made LaFell the number two receiver the Bengals were searching for. Tom Brady comparisons anyone?

“Everybody respects him just like everybody respects Brady. How Brady demanded the best out of everybody, Andy’s doing the same thing here.Both of those guys are smart guys. They always have the offense in the right play. They’re always getting the ball to the right person at the right time. They’re two different offenses, but both of those guys are winners.”

It’s Andy’s team. He has to embrace primetime and make the magic happen.

Bengals Future

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Zampese And The Offense

Let’s face the facts. Dalton is a good quarterback. Under the watchful eyes of Hue Jackson and Ken Zampese, he developed into a potentially dangerous passer. But, to get him back to that 2015 level, there has to be “continuity.” The Bengals don’t have Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger. They have a talented system quarterback that can get the job done. But, he needs weapons around him.

Zampese understands that a successful offense starts with the pieces being in place.

“We need guys that are able to come in here and compete and produce early. Hopefully, as fast as they can,  right when they get here. We need guys all over the place that can contribute early.”

Last year, the push was for a smooth transition. This season will be about finding out if the scheme is flawed or if the players just didn’t produce. Mr. Z will be turning the heat up on Dalton this year. Wanna know why Brady delivers the goods? It’s about being in a familiar system and feeling confident.

“We put a lot on him to handle. I think it’s a little harder when you’re breaking in a lot of new people. I thought he did a good job. I’m always wanting more. After him, I’m probably his toughest critic.”

The Bengals need continuity in the worst way. Zampese has to build a relationship with Dalton and the offense. After all, Josh McDaniels has been the Patriots OC since…like forever? Playing musical chairs with coordinators is a dangerous game.

With the chances of getting Hue Jackson back being slim to none, the Bengals have to get it all from Zampese. He’s already analyzing the 1,087 offensive plays from the 2016 season.

He’s ready to push some buttons.

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