Most NFL fans would say that their team had a successful season if their team made the playoffs. Some might draw the line at a playoff win, but being one of the best 12 teams in the league (except for the Seahawks last year) is generally enough to make fans happy with their team.
But the Bengals are no ordinary team. And 2011 is no ordinary season for them.
They are a team at the front end of a major overhaul. The #1 QB is a rookie who has been working with his coaches for less than 3 weeks. The top two receivers have 3 starts between them. The talent pool is deep but raw. An OK offensive line is returning with no improvement other than Andre Smith’s loss of weight. An OK defense is still searching for its mojo.
Given those considerations, where do you draw the line for “success” in the 2011 season? What would it take for this team to exceed your expectations enough to say “these guys just might do something next year” come January?
Most talking heads are putting the expectations pretty low, dropping the Bengals to the bottom of their preseason power rankings. (As if those things mean a darn thing.) But I expect those east coast blowhards to do that. I am far more interested in what you think.
For me, a guy who figures this team will win 3 or 4 games, I would call 6 wins in 2011 a successful season. For the Bengals to end up 6-10, they would have gone at least 2-2 in the first four games of the season (@CLE, @DEN, SF, BUF); snitched 2 or 3 more wins from the Jags, Seahawks, Titans, Browns, or Rams; and then capped the season with a suprising home win over the Ravens.
I am not saying this scenario is probable by any means. This team could find lead instead of gold at every turn, going 1-15 and ripping out our hearts every week all season long. But if young talent rises to the challenge, and the football gods smile a little, fans could be pleasantly surprised to see this team far away from the Andrew Luck sweepstakes and picking a lineman or a game-changing safety in the first round of the 2012 draft instead. Wouldn’t that be nice?
So tell me, what would the Bengals have to do for you to call 2011 a success?