Morning stripes: Season kickoff edition

CHICAGO -- In a matter of hours, Cincinnati Bengals football will be played once again.

At long last, that bitter taste that has rested in Who Dey Nation's collective mouth for the past nine months will finally fade away. Because right now, there is no such thing as playoff defeats. Few people will be thinking about dropped passes and hard-luck postseason finishes. On this day, at this time, hope is the only emotion that Bengals fans have to worry about feeling.

And they aren't alone. Every other NFL fan base is waking up this morning feeling the exact same way: "Is this our year?" On opening weekend, anything is possible.

So, with that, away we go with a few morning links to kick off this wonderful, football-filled Sunday:

  • For many Bengals fans, the hope is that this will be the year of Andy Dalton. After leading his team to back-to-back playoff appearances and subsequent back-to-back first-round disappointments, Dalton wants Cincinnati to take a step further this year. In order for that to happen, though, he has to be fully on top of his game this season, fans and analysts say. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy has this interesting read on all of the expectations that are resting like boulders on Dalton's shoulders entering this opener.

  • The Enquirer also started this week a series that will look back at the Bengals' last Super Bowl season, 1988. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Cincinnati's trip to Super Bowl XXIII to face the 49ers. The Bengals ended up losing 20-16. Their only other Super Bowl appearance, which came seven years prior, also resulted in a loss to San Francisco. In this week's installment of the series, the Enquirer caught up with former Bengals receiver Mike Martin, who caught a key touchdown pass from Boomer Esiason in their opener that year to beat the Cardinals.

  • If you need a few notes, nuggets and game-day info for the 1 p.m. kickoff between the Bengals and Bears, Bengals.com (like ESPN NFL Nation) has that for you.

Remember, we'll be doing a live chat from Soldier Field starting three hours before kickoff on ESPN NFL Nation's Bengals blog. On that same page, you'll be able to access yours truly's rapid postgame reaction to Cincinnati's win or loss, as well as any other nuggets of info that are gleaned from the locker room afterward. So keep your computers and mobile devices locked on this page all day.

Chat with you soon.