Tonight’s matchup featured two teams at slightly different stages of development. Both teams are coming off seasons that saw them reach the playoffs, with each suffering decisive first round losses on the road.
While the ending to their seasons were the same, the feeling heading into the offseason was starkly different. The Falcons exited the playoffs without a win for the third year in a row, and the collateral damage resulted in the dismissal of both offensive and defensive coordinators.
Dirk Koetter, formerly of Jacksonville, was brought in to overhaul the offense, while the much traveled and respected Mike Nolan was installed to revamp the defense. The foray into 2012 brings increased expectations and the overall feeling the team must finally surpass the first round of the playoffs.
For the Bengals, last year’s playoff run capped the most surprising season of any 2011 NFL team. Led by the rookie tandem of quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver AJ Green, the Bengals overa...