The Cincinnati Bengals have never the made playoffs three years in a row, but they begin the 2013 season against the Chicago Bears with aspirations of taking the AFC North, and a trip to the Super Bowl for the first time in 25 years.
Entering his 11th season, Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis has another year to milk the chemistry between his young offensive tandem of quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green.
Dalton can build on his 3,669 yards and 27 passing touchdowns of a year ago, and Green has already become one of the best playmaking wide outs in the NFL, ranking seventh with 97 receptions, with 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Joining that duo is the talent-drenched rookie running back Giovani Bernard, whose quickness and open-field burst immediately makes him a threat to the Bears defense out of the blocks.
The Bengals frontline also returns the core of its defensive line, led by Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, and Carlos Dunlap. That group formed the sixth best total defense in the NFL last year, including a third best 51 sacks.
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Chicago’s secondary was equally as deft as the Bengal’s pass rush last season, leading the NFL with an astounding 24 interceptions. Nine of those came from eight-year veteran corner Tim Jennings, and fellow corner Charles Tillman converted all three of his picks into touchdowns.
But the Bears were tripped up in the second half of the season, went 3-5 after starting 7-1, and eventually long-time head coach Tubby Smith was fired.
Now Marc Trestman comes in from the CFL, and he’ll be the latest coach trying get the best out of the talented arm of quarterback Jay Cutler. The 30-year-old threw for 3,033 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 picks, for a 81.3 passer rating last season.
A hip injury is of major concern for top receiver Brandon Marshall, who posted a career-high 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns off of 118 receptions last season. Marshall even publicly questioned the Bears new offense under Trestman.
The game begins at 1p.m. ET and will be broadcast by CBS or watch a live online stream by purchasing NFL Game Access here.
Betting Odds: Chicago is favored by 3 points.
Over/Under: 41.5 points
Prediction: Cincinnati 20, Chicago 17