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Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Bengals regular-season wrap-up

By James Walker

NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: No. 31
Preseason Power Ranking: No. 12

Jerome Simpson
Jerome Simpson finished the season strong with a 12-catch performance against Baltimore.
Biggest surprise: It happened late in the season, but the light finally came on for receiver Jerome Simpson. The former second-round pick had been written off as a bust after nearly three years of not earning playing time. But after injuries to Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, Simpson took advantage of his chance to finally crack the starting lineup. Simpson recorded back-to-back 100-yard games in the last two weeks of the regular season and earned the right to be part of Cincinnati's rebuilding efforts in 2011.

Biggest disappointment: Coming off an extremely disappointing year for the Bengals, it's hard to narrow this category to one player or coach. But considering the type of money that was invested in relation to production, the free-agent signing of receiver Antonio Bryant was the most disappointing move for the Bengals. Cincinnati gave Bryant a four-year, $28 million contract despite the fact that he was coming off a knee injury. Bryant's knee never healed properly, and the Bengals cut him before the start of the regular season. Cincinnati paid Bryant approximately $7 million and he never played a down for the team. The move forced the Bengals to spend an additional $2 million plus incentives on Owens, making it a $9 million mistake by the front office.

Biggest need: There will be a lot of changes in Cincinnati, and much depends on how the Bengals choose to rebuild the team. The way the roster is currently set up, I think the biggest need for Cincinnati is to get an elite pass-rusher. Rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap (9.5 sacks) helped fill that void in the second half of the season. But he will need help next season getting to the quarterback. If the Bengals do not re-sign tailback Cedric Benson or go in another direction at quarterback, those needs will take higher priority.

Team MVP: It's hard to pick an MVP on a four-win team, and if I didn't have to, I wouldn't. But since that's not the case, I'd go with Owens. Although he wasn't perfect, he led the team in receiving with 72 catches for 983 yards and nine touchdowns. He was really the only player who consistently produced for Cincinnati this year. Quarterback Carson Palmer, Benson and others had their moments, but they had a lot of bad games as well.

Free-agent watch: Cincinnati took care of its first free agent this week in head coach Marvin Lewis. He will return for his ninth season after signing an extension on Tuesday. Owens, Benson and cornerback Johnathan Joseph are some of the big free agents for Cincinnati. The Bengals also have to decide what to do with Ochocinco, who turns 33 this month and had his second bad season in three years.