The Cincinnati Bengals got a power up this week. No, they didn't reach a secret level on Super Mario. The Bengals rose from seventh to fifth place in the Week 3 Power Rankings. The rankings, reported by Sports Illustrated, show the Bengals making significant movement.
The Bengals started the season ranked at No. 11. Questions about the offense, and the availability of Vontaze Burfict, contributed to the lock from the top 10. With wins over the Raiders and the Chargers, the sports gods have given hope to Bengals Nation and grabbed a little attention from the league and senior NFL columnist, Pete Prisco.
The Bengals have made the leap, thanks to Andy Dalton and his spectacular play. The fifth year Red Rifle for the Bengals has inhaled offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's playbook and is playing with a chip on his shoulder. In the first two games of the season, Dalton has dropped back to throw 60 times and has a passer rating of 120.3. That rating is over 30 points better than his career average. Who-Dey fans have a right to be giddy.
The Bengals are healthy. That helps with continuity on a team that expects a big year. The emergence of Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones' stellar speed, and a beefed up offensive line are also positives for the Men in Stripes. The Bengals decision to bolster the offensive line, in this year's NFL Draft, is already paying off. Rookie OT Jake Fisher caught a pass for 31 yards, in the Bengals win over the Chargers Sunday. The unit also hasn't allowed a sack on Andy Dalton so far this year.
Speaking of continuity, Dalton has had the luxury of working under the same offensive system for a number of seasons. Three years under Jay Gruden and two under Hue Jackson. The foundation was laid with Jay and has taken off with Jackson. The style is basically a West Coast scheme with a few tweaks.
The top 10 territory is going to be a tough position to hold for the Bengals. The winless Ravens welcome them into Baltimore for their home opener. The crowd will be loud, nasty, and ravenous. After losing two close games in the final seconds, the Ravens faithful will be frothing at the mouth for Bengals fricassee.
The Bengals are also working with a rejuvenated defense. Although Burfict isn't due back for a few weeks, MLB Vinny Rey has stepped up to the plate.
The Bengals have a long season to prove they deserve the top five praise. But they have the weapons to do it.
[Photo by Andy Lyons / Getty Images]