NFL Power Rankings: Bengals stay No. 9

ESPN released its Week 1 power rankings Tuesday afternoon. The Seattle Seahawks came in No. 1, while the New York Jets rounded out the list at No. 32. What do ESPN.com's six voters think about the Bengals entering the season opener? Read on to find out:


ESPN Power Ranking: No. 9

2012 record: 10-6

Those determining this week's power rankings still believe Cincinnati is a playoff-bound team, but they aren't quite sure if the Bengals have what it takes to be a next-level organization. To them, defending Super Bowl champ Baltimore does. As you are probably well aware, much higher expectations have framed a large portion of the chatter surrounding the Bengals this preseason. Perhaps buoyed by their appearance on HBO's "Hard Knocks," the Bengals have definitely been among this year's more trendy Super Bowl picks.

So why do the power rankings voters believe No. 9 is the perfect place for Cincinnati? They're unsure about the team's quarterback and his offensive line. They feel "Andy Dalton has to handle the blitz better to win in the AFC North." They also point out how Dalton was sacked a league-high 20 times when facing at least five rushers last season. It's also worth mentioning that Cincinnati was ranked ninth in the previous, post-draft power rankings.

A big win on the road at Chicago in Week 1 could change some of that insecurity about the Bengals. Even though the Bears have completely retooled their offensive line, the Bengals have to feel good about their chances of getting to Chicago QB Jay Cutler this weekend. If they can get relentless pressure, they may just set the tone for what could be a strong year in the Queen City.

AFC North rankings: Baltimore Ravens (No. 8), Cincinnati Bengals (No. 9), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 16) and Cleveland Browns (No. 28).