Reason No. 1,000 to put the Pro Bowl out of its misery is what happened to Tyler Eifert.
The Cincinnati Bengals' breakout star at tight end was hurt in last year's game – suffering an ankle injury that required surgery and may keep him out of this year's season opener.
That would be a huge blow to a Cincinnati offense that underwent a significant retooling this offseason. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who is largely credited with getting quarterback Andy Dalton to play some of his best football, left to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Former quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese was promoted to offensive coordinator to replace Jackson.
The Bengals are coming off a 12-4 season that ended with an AFC North championship. They lost a wild playoff game to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round, extending their streak of postseason disappointment under coach Marvin Lewis.
The Buffalo News continues its look at the Bills’ opponents in 2016 with a closer look at the Bengals, who host Buffalo in Week 11.
Additions: WR Brandon LaFell (previously with New England), LB Karlos Dansby (Cleveland), S Taylor Mays (Oakland).
Analysis: LaFell projects as the starter opposite A.J. Green after the Bengals lost two receivers in free agency. ... Dansby is a solid replacement for Vontaze Burfict is suspended for the first three games. ... Mays returns to the Bengals after one year with the Raiders. He won't have any problem picking up the system.
Subtractions: DE Wallace Gilberry (signed with Detroit), CB Leon Hall (free agent), LB A.J. Hawk (free agent), WR Marvin Jones (Detroit), LB Emmanuel Lamur (Minnesota), S Reggie Nelson (Oakland), WR Mohamed Sanu (Atlanta), T Andre Smith (Minnesota).
Analysis: The Bengals suffered some significant losses in the offseason, starting with Jones and Sanu, two of their top three receivers. Jones' departure is the bigger one – he proved to be a solid option opposite Green. ... Nelson led the NFL in interceptions last year, but the Bengals opted to re-sign their other safety, George Iloka. ... Gilberry was a rotational defensive end who should be easily replaced by younger players, while Hall, Hawk and Smith are all older veterans who are on their way out of the league.
Draft report: Houston CB Williams Jackson III (first round), Pitt WR Tyler Boyd (second round), Utah State LB Nick Vigil (third round), Baylor DT Andrew Billings (fourth round), Arizona State OL Christian Westerman (fifth round).
Analysis: The Bengals have drafted a cornerback in the first round for the third time in the past five years. That means Jackson may not see a lot of time on defense as a rookie, but he'll be ready to take over if the Bengals let older players walk in the future. ... Boyd is a slot receiver who figures to immediately become the Bengals' No. 3 at the position. ... Both Billings and Westerman were classified as big steals by draft analysts where Cincinnati picked them. Both are expected to fill reserve roles, and could become starters in the near future.
Returning Pro Bowlers: Green, Eifert, LT Andrew Whitworth, DT Geno Atkins.
Biggest question: Is this the year the Bengals finally get over the hump in the playoffs? Cincinnati has won 52 regular-season games the past five seasons, but has lost on wild-card weekend every time. In fact, the Bengals haven't won a playoff game since 1991. The roster is stacked with talent, but so far, coach Marvin Lewis hasn't been able to get the most out of it when stakes are highest.