2018 Cincinnati Bengals Betting Odds & Season Preview: Protecting Andy Dalton Key to Rebound

2018 Cincinnati Bengals Betting Odds & Season Preview: Protecting Andy Dalton Key to Rebound article feature image

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Andy Dalton

  • Win Over/Under: 7 (+120/+100) 
  • Make AFC Playoffs: +350 (22%) 
  • Win AFC North: +1000 (9%)
  • Win AFC Championship: +4000 (2.4%) 
  • Win Super Bowl: +8000 (1.2%)

The Action Network’s Projected Wins: 6.47 (24th)

Tom Brady. Peyton Manning. Aaron Rodgers. Drew Brees.

Andy Dalton?

You might be surprised to learn that Dalton has a 60-42-6 (.588) career record against the spread — the fifth-best mark for a quarterback since 2003, according to BetLabs. He’s posted a winning ATS record in six of his seven NFL seasons.

And if quarterback wins is a stat that makes you want to throw up in your mouth, then get your economy-size Listerine ready: Dalton is 63-44-2 over his seven-year career. That includes a red-hot 50-26-1 mark over his first five seasons, which featured five playoff berths and five overs on the Bengals’ win total.

The formula was simple: Play good defense, protect Dalton enough to allow A.J. Green to make the quarterback look good and function as the appetizer for some lucky team primed to advance to the divisional round while Marvin Lewis spends 18 weeks perfecting his remarks for the umpteenth consecutive playoff loss of his coaching career.

But that formula returned an error the past two seasons — especially last year — because the Bengals have failed to protect Dalton. He’s always done fine from a clean pocket, but pressure turns the Red Rifle into the Red Cap Gun.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dalton ranked 24th in completion percentage under pressure in 2017 and averages a rank of 26th for his career (min. 240 dropbacks in a season).

From 2011 to 2015, PFF ranked the Bengals as a top-eight pass-blocking unit each season. But in 2016 they fell to 15th and then to 24th in 2017.

Since 2011, their pass-blocking ranking has a silly .77 correlation with their actual wins for the corresponding season, meaning you could effectively predict how many games the Bengals won in the past solely based on their PFF pass-blocking grade.

The prime pass-blocking offenders last year were center Russell Bodine, who had a 69.4 PFF pass-blocking rating, and tackles Andre Smith (53.6) and Cedric Ogbuehi (58.0). Smith has been replaced with former Bill Cordy Glenn (73.5), but former Giant Bobby Hart (48.2) could actually be a downgrade from Ogbuehi. Holdover Jake Fisher (64.4) wouldn’t be much of an upgrade, either.

This year’s 21st overall pick Billy Price should theoretically be an upgrade over Bodine, but PFF notes it had a third-round grade on the center coming out of Ohio State. Price is already making his case for the “you had one job” Hall of Shame by struggling to snap the ball in the preseason.

Dalton’s weapons won’t approach their 2015 heyday, when 89% of his targets went to Green, Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard, Mohamed Sanu and Rex Burkhead. But if Eifert can stop making Jordan Reed look like Cal Ripken Jr. and 2017 first-round wideout John Ross can shed his invisibility cloak, both could go a long way.

The defense was also average last season, finishing 16th in points allowed after having ranked between No. 2 and No. 12 in each of the previous six seasons.

Defensive tackle Geno Atkins and corner Williams Jackson III are legit ballers, but Vontaze Burfict’s annual four-game suspension and George Iloka’s surprise August release make it tough to project drastic improvement.

Cincinnati has winnable games at home against Miami, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Denver and Oakland and on the road at Cleveland and at Pittsburgh in Week 17, when the Steelers could be resting their starters.

Ultimately, seven wins seems like the right number, but considering how much the point spread has undervalued this team in the past, there’s more value on betting the Bengals’ individual games. – Chris Raybon

Raybon’s Bet: Pass on futures, bet in-season point spreads

A Case for Under 7 wins

From a pure numbers perspective, I have the Bengals favored in only three games this season.

The schedule is not kind. They start and finish the season with three of four on the road and catch an angry Baltimore team at home in Week 2. Expect the Ravens to be out for blood since the Bengals kept them out of the playoffs on a last-second prayer to end 2017. Baltimore later hosts Cincinnati in Week 11.

The Bengals also have dates in Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City and Los Angeles against the Chargers, and they host the Saints. A brutal slate.

Vontaze Burfict will have to serve a four-game suspension at the start of the regular season. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The defense should be solid once Burfict comes back, as the D-line is rock-solid, and you can’t fault the secondary. But there are questions throughout the roster, particularly on the offensive line, which was absolutely horrendous last year.

I still also have doubts about that backfield, and while the Bengals do have talent on the outside for Dalton, it doesn’t mean anything if he doesn’t get time to throw and the running game can’t get going. And don’t forget about special teams, which has been a major weakness for Cincy the past few years. I don’t see that changing much.

I don’t see 8 wins on this schedule with the amount of questions on this roster.

The Marvin Lewis message might be growing stale, too. After five straight playoff seasons, the Bengals have failed to win eight games each of the past two years. I think that becomes three in 2018. – Stuckey

Stuckey’s Bet: Under 7 Wins

Cincinnati Bengals 2018 Schedule

  • Games Favored: 3
  • Avg. Spread: +2.2
  • Strength of Schedule: 25th (1 = Easiest, 32 = Hardest)

Survivor Pool 101

  • Use the Bengals: Week 12 vs. CLE
  • Use Bengals’ opponents: Week 4 @ ATL, Week 14 @ LAC

Fantasy Football Outlook

  • Top Picks: WR A.J. Green, RB Joe Mixon
  • Sleeper: WR John Ross
  • Boom/Bust: TE Tyler Eifert

>> Full Fantasy Rankings | Player Projections | Printable Cheat Sheet

Best of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+

Bookmaker Unfiltered

“They’re a liability for us to win the division because of their odds. Other than that, there isn’t much else with Cincinnati.”

– Westgate bookmaker Jeff Sherman to The Action Network’s Michael Leboff

Andy Dalton Over/Under 3,499.5 Passing Yards? (-110/-120)

Reaching 3,500 yards would take an average of 218.75 yards per game over a 16-game season, an average that Dalton has maintained in four of his past six seasons.

A combination of marginal improvement along the O-line and the Eifert-Ross duo commanding more than seven total targets should spark enough of a flame to reheat the gingerbread.

Sean Koerner has Dalton projected for over 3,700 yards. – Chris Raybon

The Bet: Over 3,499.5 Passing Yards

Mix Mixon Into Your DFS Lineups

The Bengals are poised to feature 2017 second-rounder Joe Mixon, who offers an ideal combination of size (6-foot-1, 226 pounds) and receiving ability (65 catches in two seasons at Oklahoma).

Bernard won’t be completely relegated to the bench, but Mixon is fully expected to assume Jeremy Hill’s old role as the goal-line back. Playing alongside Dalton has been a good spot for a running back, as Bengals backs have collectively ranked among the top-four units in average DraftKings points per game, Plus/Minus and Consistency Rating since 2014, according to the FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool. – Ian Hartitz

>> For more team previews, see our betting odds and picks homepage for all 32 teams.

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