|Bengals coach Marvin Lewis hasn't had many reasons to smile this season, as Cincinnati is among the league's biggest disappointments. (US Presswire)|
With eight games done, the Cincinnati Bengals (3-5) are nearly toast, riding a four-game losing streak into the second half. Here are our midseason awards along with a projection of where the Bengals will end up at the end of the season:
Offensive MVP -- WR A.J. Green: On a schizophrenic offense, he's the lone constant. Green elevated to elite wide receiver status this season. He's on pace for 102 receptions for 1,470 yards and 16 touchdowns even as defenses suffocate him with coverage.
Defensive MVP -- DT Geno Atkins: He leads all NFL interior linemen in sacks (7) and has become the focal point on what's been a disappointing defense. In his third season, he belongs on the short list of the game's best defensive tackles.
Rookie MVP -- G Kevin Zeitler: The first-round pick stepped into a starting role from Day 1 and has yet to commit a penalty. He's become a rock up front -- pushing effectively in the run game and more than holding his own against the pass, as he has only allowed one sack on the season.
Top assistant coach -- Paul Alexander: Nobody was dealt a more challenging hand than the offensive line coach. He saw his starting center (Kyle Cook) and starting left guard (Travelle Wharton) go down for the year before one regular season game. The unit also features a rookie at right guard. The line hasn't been perfect, but it's the most consistent offensive group.
Biggest disappointment -- DE Carlos Dunlap: Plenty of candidates for this award, but Dunlap's high expectations place him a rung above the rest. The Bengals were counting on him to take a step in his third season as one of the elite pass rushers. In six games, he has one sack and has failed to steal the starting job from veteran Robert Geathers.
Biggest strength -- Andy Dalton to Green. Every game except one (Pittsburgh) opponents haven't been able to slow this combo. Their chemistry in Year 2 has become the calling card of this team, and it's the go-to play in every big situation.
Biggest weakness -- Linebacker. Every week teams attack the Bengals linebackers in coverage and every week they are exposed. MLB Rey Maualuga, outside backer Manny Lawson and to a lesser extent OLB Vontaze Burfict, are a glaring liability in coverage. Maualuga has struggled in pursuit and tackling as well, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the defense.
Projected final record -- 6-10
Playoffs? No way. This team has yet to show it can beat elite competition and is filled with shortcomings that can't be fixed until the offseason.
One fact you may not know but should know: Assuming this season continues to spiral, it will mark the 30th consecutive year without back-to-back winning seasons for the Bengals.
Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter @CBSBengals.
Want to know who CBSSports.com says the MVP is? Check out our Midseason Awards.