Cincinnati Bengals: Could 2016 Be The Year Of The Lombardi?

Cincinnati Bengals fans have heard and seen it all before. The anticipation is there, all the right moves are made, and the stage is set. The 2015 season looked promising, for the Bengals. With the return of key players, the franchise looked like the team to beat. Once again, the joy turned to agony, as mighty Casey struck out. Bengals brass seems to be making the right moves, as the draft approaches. Could 2016 be the year the Bengals finally hoist the Lombardi?

There's been the typical end of the year speculation. Analysts love to get the fans going and create buzz around certain teams. Some of it is pure conjecture. But, then there are the teams that rise above the talk and perform like never before. Last year, one of those teams was the Bengals. They rose to the occasion and surprised the NFL.

According to a piece done by ESPN, the Bengals are destined to win all the marbles, in 2016. The predictions that were made seem to be in the spirit of fun. The Denver Broncos defeated the Panthers, in a titanic struggle between two top 10 defenses. That's the best time for Bengals fans to start considering the possibility of appearing in Super Bowl 51. The Broncos and Panthers made it chic to throw a serious defensive unit onto the field.

Cincinnati Bengals
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]To ensure they've got leverage, Bengals brass has been making the moves necessary. The plan is to keep their top-tier defense intact. Bringing back Adam Jones and George Iloka was a declaration about the state of affairs at Paul Brown Stadium. Defense still wins championships, and the Bengals had one of the best units in the league.

Fielding another powerhouse offense shouldn't be a problem. Though the Bengals lost Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones to free agency, there are moves being made to secure their positions. Cincinnati will need at least two burners to replace them. Brandon LaFell is rumored to be in negotiations with the Bengals. Per SB Nation, the former New England Patriots receiver could soon be snagging passes from Andy Dalton.

Dalton will be the key to a serious Bengals run. Last year, he came of age and was en route to landing the NFL's Most Valuable Player award. The jeers of "Bad Andy" were put aside by all football purists, as they took a longer look at Mr. Dalton.

The key to Dalton's turnaround seems to be twofold. After being booed at a celebrity softball game, during All-Star Weekend activities, Dalton hit a home run and swore to avenge his embarrassment. That's how the story goes. The main part of his turnaround was working with Tom House and his crew. The quarterback guru's staff looked at Dalton's mechanics, made a few adjustments, and the rest is history.

In Week 14, Dalton suffered a fractured thumb and never returned. Bengals owner Mike Brown was devastated. He usually shows no emotion. While looking down on the action that day, Brown let his emotions get the best of him. Like everyone else, he realized the Bengals fortunes were riding on the success of his "brand new" signal-caller.

Cincinnati Bengals
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]He knew the rest of the season was going to be chaos, when he was informed of the broken thumb. He talked to his brother, Pete Brown, and realized the Bengals' playoff hopes were in jeopardy.

"When Andy got hurt that was about the biggest single adverse thing that could happen to us," Brown remembered. "I said to Pete, there goes our shot."

The team rallied around AJ McCarron and almost beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the Wild Card round. Brown was proud of the team. He knows that the team is on the right track. A sound defense coupled with a high-scoring offense should get the Bengals another shot.

"It was a good season. We didn't win the Super Bowl. But I was very pleased with how our guys did overall."
Maybe this season the Bengals can complete the task.

[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]