CINCINNATI -- When league analysts tried to forecast the NFL standings last spring and summer, many used the Cincinnati Bengals as their sexy pick to win the AFC North, end years of franchise postseason despair and roll all the way to the Super Bowl.
A bad second half in January's wild-card playoff game against San Diego ruined those plans.
Since then, the Bengals have gone through a relatively quiet offseason, losing a few players, signing a few more and drafting for depth. As a result, the buzz has been comparatively silent this offseason. Their coach, Marvin Lewis, likes that.
"You get no points for buzz," Lewis said after Tuesday's open voluntary organized team activity (OTA) practice.
If teams did get points for buzz, then the Bengals would have been near the front of the pack this time last year. It's in large part because of their recent playoff failures and the departures this January of their two top assistants that have left many feeling so differently about them now. Fresh off an 11-5 regular season that preceded a franchise record third-straight postseason berth, the Bengals have been expected this offseason to fare worse in 2014.
Las Vegas oddsmakers are among those throwing out the low expectations. Bovada Sportsbook last week set the over/under on Cincinnati's win total this season at nine. A large number of you think Bovada was smart to set those odds. Of the more than 25,000 people (as of Wednesday afternoon) who voted in this poll, 48 percent are bracing for a 9-7 season. Respondents split the vote on a 10-6 or better year and an 8-8 or worse season. Of those who responded to the survey, 26 percent are taking the over right now. Another 26 percent are taking the under.
All of this is mentioned to illustrate how muted the talk around the Bengals is this offseason. It's a stark contrast to last offseason, when outsiders proclaimed it was Super Bowl or bust, AFC title game or nothing.
Maybe it was their appearance on HBO's "Hard Knocks" last August that got the Bengals on some people's radar. Maybe it was the fact they had a pretty good roster last season with veteran coordinators, a young, but growing quarterback and a head coach who, after two consecutive first-round playoff exits, was fed up with his team's annual end result.
So what's different this year? HBO's cameras certainly aren't coming back for training camp and two coordinators are gone.
But that's about it. Although a couple of key players off last year's team bolted for Tampa Bay in free agency (defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins), they still kept the core foundation of their roster in place. The quarterback, as inconsistent as he may be, remains. Andy Dalton has devoted part of his offseason to at least trying to improve, too, even if it remains to be seen how much he's improved. Likewise, the coach, the same one who already was perturbed by his reputation of being unable to lead successful teams in the postseason, is also back. His two new coordinators return, too, getting promotions from other jobs on the staff.
So why the lack of buzz?
Aside from the changes at coordinator and scheme, there may not be a good answer for that. Even if there was, Lewis could care less to be told about it.
"The buzz has nothing to do with winning football games come the fall," Lewis said. "We just need to keep coming out here and building upon what we do every day. We've got a lot of revisions, we've got a lot of new faces, we've got new coordinators, we've got new schemes on both sides of the football that have built upon what the guys in the past have done. We're looking to move forward and be better."
Can the Bengals buck expectations and eventually convince the pro football universe they can be better this year? Only 95 days until we find out.