Two teams in our Swampland Footprint that will look to repeat a winning season in 2010 are the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans. Both franchises have seemed to be a little snake-bitten over the last few years. Cincinnati looked like an exciting passing team on the rise in 2005, but then struggled through many off-the-field issues and three mediocre seasons before getting back to the Playoffs last year with the running and defense formula. Houston battled slow starts in ’07 and ’08 to finish 8-8, and then finally achieved their first winning record in '09 despite missing the postseason once again.
The Bengals may have to play better in 2010 just to return to the Playoffs because of the rugged AFC landscape. In the Draft, they added two quality Big 12 weapons for Carson Palmer with the selections of Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham and Texas wide receiver/returner Jordan Shipley. Both players should help immediately as Cincinnati tries to prove that last year’s division title was not a fluke. A strong follow-up campaign would show a skeptical fan base that the Bengals are headed in the right direction under Marvin Lewis.
Houston fans are still desperately waiting for their first Playoff game. This roster is talented enough to get to there, especially after adding Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson and Auburn running back Ben Tate in the Draft. Those two positions will be key for a team trying to leap frog the Colts by running the ball more effectively and playing well in the secondary. Coach Gary Kubiak will need to get the Texans to their first postseason to placate a restless fan base in the Lone Star State.
Cincinnati and Houston have solid teams that were enhanced with quality draft picks. They will have a tough road to the Playoffs in the brutal AFC, but both will need to get there in 2010 to gain their fans’ confidence and avoid organizational changes.