Head Coach: Marvin Lewis (100-90-2, 0-6 Playoffs)
Offensive Coordinator: Hue Jackson
Defensive Coordinator: Paul Guenther
Lewis is the second longest tenured head coach in the NFL as this season will be his 13th season as the head man in Cincinnati. The Bengals have reached the postseason six times under Lewis, including four straight appearances, but exited in the Wild Card round each time.
2015 marks the second season each for Jackson and Guenther to man their respective positions with the Bengals. Jackson most notably served as the head coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2010 before he joined Cincinnati as a position coach in 2012. Meanwhile, Guenther has been a part of Lewis' staff since 2005 where he coached a number of different positions before he earned a promotion last year.
Last Week's Recap: Defeated Raiders @ Oakland, 33-13
I generally elect to stay away from watching terrible football, even for the purposes of schadenfreude, so forgive me for not watching the entirety of the Bengals 33-13 shellacking of the Raiders in Week One. However, even if I did watch the whole game, I'm fairly confident I'd have just as much of an idea of how good Cincinnati is than I do now, which is to say not much.
The Bengals dominated the first three quarters in scoring the first 33 points of the game before calling off the dogs in the final period. They mustered just 26 yards on 13 plays in the fourth quarter as I assume Lewis grabbed the first 11 people he saw and sent them on the field while the rest of the team was busy boarding the flight back to Ohio.
Prior to that, Andy Dalton was, dare I say, sharp, in completing 24 of 32 passes for 262 yards and two scores before the offense went into sleep mode. Meanwhile, the two-headed monster that is Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for 126 yards on 27 carries, while each player garnered 63 yards apiece. Hill added two scores on the ground, while Bernard hauled in six receptions for 25 yards.
Standout wide receiver A.J. Green had a ho-hum five receptions for 63 yards as Dalton elected to pound the ball to tight end Tyler Eifert, who led the team with nine receptions, 12 targets, 104 yards and two scores.
The Bengals defense meanwhile, appears as formidable as ever, though an offense led by Matt McGloin is never going to pose much of a threat. Both McGloin and Raiders staring quarterback Derek Carr - who left the game in the 2nd quarter due to a hand injury - struggled mightily to get the ball up field, as Carr averaged 5.1 yards per pass attempt, while McGloin delivered just 4.7 yard per attempt.
In the Raiders final two drives (when the Bengals exhibited preseason-level effort), McGloin completed 15 of 17 passes for 107 yards. Nine of those receptions went to either a running back or tight end, with no single pass traveling more than 15 yards.
When the Bengals were actually playing defense - and threatening the well being of other players - McGloin was just 8-14 for 35 yards. Cincinnati also only surrendered 63 yards on 16 carries (3.9 average) but it's hard to judge a run defense when Oakland was playing catch-up all day.
But really that's the crux of this whole thing. It's hard to judge Cincinnati after such a small sample size made even smaller by the dropoff in talent level from San Diego to Oakland.
Key Players: Offense
QB Andy Dalton, RB Jeremy Hill WR A.J. Green, TE Tyler Eifert, LT Andrew Whitworth
The skill position guys are obvious choices. Hill, one game into his second season, is one of the best young backs in the league and is an extremely physical runner. Limiting Hill should be a top priority for John Pagano as the Bengals will no doubt turn to Hill to wear out the Chargers defensive front. Green meanwhile, is about as gifted a receiver there is. He's tall, he's fast, he has excellent ball skills, and is entirely capable of taking over a game.
Eifert, however is more of an unknown, having missed all of last season following a decent rookie showing. The Notre Dame product provides excellent size (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) and appears to a capable blocker on top of being a threat in the passing game. Speaking of blocking, Whitworth has developed into one of the better left tackles in the game and was named Second Team All-Pro following the 2014 season.
But the key to Cincinnati is of course quarterback Andy Dalton. When "Good Andy" shows up, the Bengals have an extremely potent offense capable of hanging with most teams. When "Bad Andy" rears his head, the level of play could be called funny, if it wasn't so sad.
Key Players: Defense
DT Geno Atkins, DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Rey Maualuga, CB Adam Jones
There are a lot of really good defensive lines in the league right now. One of the better and more underrated ones resides in Cincinnati. The Bengals feature a lot of size and depth up front, starting with Atkins and Dunlap. Back in 2012, Atkins was flat out one of the best defenders in football. Since then he was slowed by injuries in 2013 and delivered a solid rebound season in 2014. Through one game, Atkins appears to have regained some of that form from three seasons ago as the former Georgia Bulldog dominated the Raiders up front as he racked up one sack and forced a fumble. Like Atkins, Dunlap is also in his sixth season in the league, and also totaled a sack against the Raiders. Dunlap (and fellow end Michael Johnson, for that matter) is a big, long, defensive end who is stout against the run and is capable of getting after the quarterback.
Maualuga mans the middle of the Bengals defense, and plays downhill. Listed at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, the seven year veteran is the prototypical player to have at middle linebacker.
Lost in all the absurdity and controversy surrounding Adam Jones is the fact that he is a very good cornerback. While not athletic as he used to be, Jones plays the ball well and, in case it wasn't obvious, isn't afraid to get physical. He is also one of four former first round picks play cornerback for the Bengals. 2012 first rounder Dre Kirkpatrick mans the other corner spot, while Darqueze Dennard (2014) and Leon Hall (2007) serve as backups.