CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 24: Members of the offensive line of the Cincinnati Bengals break the huddle during the game against the Detroit Lions at Paul Brown Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.The Bengals defeated the Lions 26-17. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

In this series of articles here on the Last Word On Sports, we will be breaking down each NFL division starting every week, preparing for the upcoming 2018 NFL Season. We will highlight strengths and weaknesses of each team and make our best analysis and predictions for this upcoming season. Let’s start with the AFC North Breakdown.

2018 NFL Breakdown: Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)

Strengths

The Cincinnati Bengals have been a team who has underperformed the past couple of seasons. The Bengals have had one consistent player on their team in wide reciever AJ Green. AJ Green has been one of the top recievers in the league since he was drafted in 2011 with the fourth overall pick.

The Bengals don’t seem to have to many strengths this season but could be able to get some time for their young players to grow and develop. Joe Mixon was drafted last year by the Bengals at the running back position. Mixon had an up and down rookie season and cared to much about the off the field activities. If Mixon can be the back he was in college at Oklahoma then the Bengals could have themselves one of the better all around running backs in the game today. The Bengals offense should be able to put up some points if AJ Green and Joe Mixon can stay healthy as long as the other guys contribute.

Weaknesses

The Cincinnati Bengals are going to be without veteran linebacker Vonteze Burfict on defense the first four weeks of the season due to a suspension. Burfict is the heart and soul of that defense although he has a history of a dirty player. This will be a big lose to the team and the defense. The Bengals are going to have to rely on some young players and rookies this season to make contributions. The Bengals season could be on the shoulders of Andy Dalton and AJ Green. Andy Dalton has been one of the bottom QB’s in the league for the past 3 – 4 seasons. The Bengals have failed to make the playoffs or win a game in the playoffs in Marvin Lewis‘s tenture in Cincinnati.

Team Most Valuable Player : WR AJ Green

AJ Green has been the most consistent recievers in the league for the past 5 years and is the most consistent player on the Bengals in that stretch. The Bengals offense runs through AJ Green and they go as he goes. If the Bengals want to compete week in and week out then its going to have to be Green putting up big numbers week in and week out. AJ Green can do it against the best of them but if he doesn’t get consistent help from the other guys or good QB play then the Bengals will struggle this season.

Team Sleeper : LB Malik Jefferson

Malik Jefferson was an outstanding linebacker in college at Texas. Malik Jefferson did battle some injuries during his first two years in college. He was moved around the defense trying different positions as well. Malik is one of the more intruging linebackers in the draft with his athleticism and his huge upside. With the suspension to Burfict the first four games of the season. Jefferson could get the starting nod in training camp to fill that void and if he plays well could make a name for himself. Jefferson likes to play freely and is an average open field tackeler. I would watch for Malik to go after that starting role in training camp with a spot open.

Reason for Prediction

The reason for my record prediction of 7 – 9 for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are without their leader Burfict for the first four games of the season in which they play the Colts, Ravens, Panthers, and Falcons with 3 of those games being on the road. Thats a tough stretch to get through especially being on the road without your leader on defense. They also have to play the Steelers and Ravens twice which is always a tough matchup and they play the NFC South which could have 3 potential teams make the playoffs. The Bengals have to take advantage of the stretch where they play 6 of 8 games at home after the Burfict suspension ends.

Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images