THE BENGALS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE: The Bengals receiving corps consisted of A.J. Green and little else before this season, but Cincinnati now has a lot of options in the passing game. The Bengals took tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round of the 2013 draft to complement fellow former first-round pick Jermaine Gresham and wide receiver Marvin Jones also has emerged as a threat. Jones leads the team with seven touchdown catches, including a franchise-record four against the Jets on Sunday. Thanks to the added help, quarterback Andy Dalton is putting together the best season of his career. He’s completing 65.6 percent of his passes and has an impressive 99.0 passer rating through the first eight games of the season.
THE BENGALS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: After taking Eifert in the first round, Cincinnati selected speedy running back Giovani Bernard in the second to team up with veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But the Bengals just haven’t been that productive with their running game. Cincinnati is averaging a decent 99.8 rushing yards per game, but its average of 3.6 yards per carry ranks 25th in the league. Both Green-Ellis and Bernard have been held under 4 yards per carry, and the team’s longest run of the season was a 34-yard gain by wide receiver Marvin Jones.
THE BENGALS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: The Bengals have assembled one of the best defenses in the league and they’re pretty solid against both the run and the pass. The best player on that unit is defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the son of former Dolphins safety Gene Atkins. Atkins leads the team with five sacks and also is a force against the run. The Bengals rank 11th in the NFL in terms of passing yards allowed per game, but their opponents’ combined passer rating is only 79.4. In the 49-9 victory against the Jets, Cincinnati got two interception returns for touchdowns, one by Adam Jones and the other by former Dolphins safety Chris Crocker. The cornerback group includes a whopping four former first-round picks — Jones, Terence Newman, Dre Kirkpatrick and Leon Hall.
THE BENGALS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: Hall, the 18th overall pick in the 2007 draft, has never been selected to the Pro Bowl, but he’s widely considered the team’s best defensive back. So it was a blow for the Bengals defense when he tore an Achilles tendon in a Week 7 victory at Detroit. The Bengals obviously didn’t miss Hall when they faced the Jets on Sunday, but his absence could be felt at some point. Cincinnati, however, has built up tremendous depth on defense and is one of those rare teams that can lose a front-line player like Hall and still thrive.
THE BENGALS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Dolphins fans no doubt remember Brandon Tate, the former New England wide receiver who returned a kickoff for a touchdown at Sun Life Stadium in 2010. He’s with the Bengals now and in the rout against the Jets on Sunday he contributed a 71-yard kickoff return that led to a touchdown right before halftime. Cincinnati also has a quality punter in the left-footed Kevin Huber, who is sporting an impressive 41.9-yard net average with 14 punts inside the 20 against only one touchback.
THE BENGALS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: The Bengals rank near the middle of the pack when it comes to punt and kickoff coverage, although they allowed a 40-yard punt return to Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown in the Monday night game in Week 2. Kicker Mike Nugent has missed three of his 13 field goal attempts, although he did come back from one of his misses to make a 54-yard kick on the last play of the game in a 27-24 victory at Detroit one week after rebounding from another miss to kick a 43-yarder in overtime at Buffalo.