- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
Our latest "Thought of the Day" topic in the AFC North focused on the Cincinnati Bengals. The question was whether this year’s team is better than the 2005 group that made the wild-card round of the playoffs?
Here are the best responses along with an AFC North final take:
Anthony from Dayton, Ohio writes: I think the 2009 Bengals can go much further than the 2005 Bengals. The main reason is the fact that the Bengals defense is much improved in every area. The Bengals defense can stop the run and stop teams on third down, something they struggled with in 2005. The offense is not clicking but if you think they are good at 4-1 and relying on the defense. Wait until the offense finally starts clicking and they will be fun to watch.
Ben from Indianapolis, Ind., writes: No, the Bengals of this year are not better. If you'll remember in '05 that Bengals squad was beating teams with an overpowering offense. This year they are squeaking by each game. Sure, the defense is improved, but this team is not better. Lucky might be a better word. This is still the Pittsburgh Steelers division to lose.
Ryan from Dayton, Ohio, writes: You said "team." The 2005 Cincinnati Bengals weren't a "team." They were self-promoters that clicked on offense for a season and were terrible on defense. When your defense gives up points like they did in '05 your offense has to score like they did. When Carson Palmer went out, we saw what happened.
Terry from Boulder, Colo., writes: James, without a doubt the '05 team was better. Look at Cincy's wins this year. This team could just as easily be 1-4 as 4-1 (or 5-0). But you can make a case that they shouldn't have beaten the Steelers, Browns or Ravens (not to mention they nearly blew the lead against Green Bay as well.) Granted, they did end up winning all those games, and that can be the mark of a great team. But as a Steelers fan, I was much more worried about the '05 team than about this '09 team.
Andrew Smith from Louisville, Ky., writes: It is a complete role reversal, the 05' Bengals were in every game because of the explosive offense. The ‘09 squad has hung its hat on Mike Zimmer's defense. You know the old saying of defense wins championships. I'll take this year’s squad every day of the week.
Chris from Sandusky, Ohio, writes: James, the 2005 team was the hottest team in the league going into the playoffs and it was only an injury that derailed them. They proved they could take Pittsburgh that year during the regular season. They led the league in takeaways (by far) and no one could stop their offense. I have high hopes for this year's team, especially with their hard hitting defense, but there's a lot of work to be done before they can claim to be better than the '05 team.
Talani Casariego from Atlanta writes: The ‘05 Bengals defense took a major blow when David Pollack went down. It basically took the Bengals until now to recover from losing such a high pick so tragically. It didn't help that Odell Thurman flaked out. Their defense has been in re-rebuilding mode since '05. They finally seem to have recovered, and yeah, I think they are better than they were in '05.This team is back on track. Go Bengals!
Ken from Long Beach, Calif., writes: I think it’s a complete toss-up. The '09 defense is much better and much more explosive but the ‘09 offense is also much less explosive. The 2009 Bengals are a time consuming, run-first offense that has made huge plays when needed but the 2005 offense was much more explosive and fluid.
AFC North final take
James Walker: This is a tough question. But there are three things that are hard to quantify with a team: Character, chemistry and heart. This year’s Bengals have it. The '05 group, although talented, didn’t have enough of it. So I’m going to go with the '09 Bengals on this one, at least in the early going six weeks into the season. Cincinnati looks more like an AFC North team this year. Its running back is leading the league in rushing and the defense is much more consistent than the '05 defense and hitting people in the mouth. That formula wins games in January, not the formula the team tried in '05. Health will be important. The division also is stacked this year with three very good teams. So winning the AFC North and advancing beyond the wild-card round could be even more challenging for Cincinnati than it was four seasons ago.