The USA Today released their annual NFL predictions. If the 2017 season goes based on their guesswork, the Bengals are in for a long year with a third-place finish in the AFC North and an overall record of 5-11.

Here’s a closer look at their predictions for all teams:

From an AFC North standpoint, picking the Steelers to win the division is a smart move. They are arguably one of a handful of teams with enough talent to possibly knock off the Patriots come January.

Another interesting tidbit is they have the Ravens finishing with a 9-7 record. This would be good enough for them to earn a wild-card berth. The Chargers would earn the other wild-card bid with the same record.

The paper predicts the Browns finish with a 4-12 record, meaning they are edging up on the Bengals. For some Browns’ fans, a 4-12 record would be outstanding.

As mentioned before, the Bengals have a challenging schedule this season. The AFC North could have two playoff caliber teams; the Bengals also play the Packers, Titans, Jaguars, Vikings, and Texans.

That’s nine games against teams projected to finish the season .500 or better.

Speculation is all the rage of the pre-season, so before you pick up the Pepto-Bismol keep in mind the Bengals have a good crop of talent with playoff experience. This bodes well for them as they encounter what should be a difficult slate.

What’s more, the Bengals possess a nucleus of young, talented players who could change the dynamic of the team. The development of the offensive line, Joe Mixon, John Ross, and the secondary will be the key focal points to watch during training camp and the early part of the season. If things begin to click in September, and judging by the schedule they’ll have to, the Bengals could earn signature wins in September. And the confidence that comes with it could propel them to exceed these low expectations.

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