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Cincinnati Bengals Odds Preview

What do the Cincinnati Bengals have to do to earn some respect among bettors and sportsbooks? They’re the defending AFC North champions yet virtually every book, including SBG Global, slots their divisional odds third for 2010. The Ravens and Steelers are both ranked higher despite going a combined 0-4 against Cincinnati last season.

Should bettors trust the books? Or will the Bengals once again be a great value pick this season? Odds to win Division: +250 Regular Season Win Total: 8 (OV -135, UN +105) Super Bowl Odds: 20 to 1 The best way to decide whether or not the books are correct in taking a 10-win team and setting its 2010 win total at eight is to analyze what’s different about this year’s team.

Are the Bengals actually worse? Offensively, they appear to be better. The key pieces remain in place. Carson Palmer’s arm strength isn’t what it once was but he won’t be worse than he was last year. Chad Ochocinco is still around, as is breakout star running back Cedric Benson. The Bengals have actually added pieces to their offense.

Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant (once he’s healthy) give Palmer two more intriguing targets, though managing all those egos will be a challenge. The Bengals’ top pick, Jermaine Gresham, also projects to be an athletic tight end in the mold of Vernon Davis or Antonio Gates. The Bengals had a top-five defense in 2009 and their two most important components, cornerbacks Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, return to shut down opposing wideouts.

On paper, Cincinnati looks good to eclipse eight wins again and possibly push Baltimore for the division title. So what’s the problem, oddsmakers? Maybe it’s the Bengals’ schedule. Cincy does in fact play plenty of powerhouse teams in 2010. It gets New England, Indianapolis, the New York Jets, New Orleans, Atlanta, San Diego, Baltimore twice, and Pittsburgh twice (both after Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension ends). That schedule is tough enough to give any bettor pause. Optimists will pounce on the Bengals’ odds because their division-champion roster is very much intact. Pessimists will worry that the Bengals’ schedule will make them the Bungles again. Which one are you?