This time last season the 49ers and Bengals were a mess. The 49ers had no set quarterback and Mike Singletary was losing control of the team, while the Bengals had a quarterback that didn’t want to be there, aging receivers and injuries that never allowed them to sustain any consistency. Fast forward, both of these squads are in first place and hold complete control of their playoff destiny.
The Bengals behind a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and rookie receiver AJ Green haven’t missed a beat replacing Carson Palmer and OchoCinco. With a very good offensive line and Cedric Benson running the ball, the Bengals have a solid surrounding cast around Dalton so all the pressure isn’t on him. An above average defense that doesn’t get much credit, but they have very aggressive linebackers and a secondary that can make opposing teams suffer when they make mistakes. Usually bad drafters, they last few years they’ve hit on players like Rey Maualuga, Carlos Dunlap and they’ve quietly established an offensive that can protect their quarterback.
The 49ers with essentially the same team, with a few additions have only one lost, and that came in overtime. Alex Smith looks like a serviceable quarterback and has been consistently average, which is all they need from him. Frank Gore, who is on pace to rush for over 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns has carried the team this year when needed. Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree both have 30 catches so far and have the ability to have the mismatch every game. Very solid and physical defense and have created 22 turnovers and look to annihilate you when they step on the field. Harbough has found a way to motivate this team differently Singletary did a year ago which shows in their record.
Now the question is, which of these two surprise teams do you think is for real, 49ers or Bengals. Going through some of the key positions, it breaks down to be even. I give the Bengals the edge at qb, though a rookie, I’ve seen Alex Smith enough not to trust him. I’d say at coaching their even and give the 49ers the edge in the running department. Defense I’d lean towards the 49ers and special teams is a toss up. I’d put my money on the 49ers considering the weak division they’re playing in, but I don’t expect the Bengals to just drift away, I fully believe both teams will be in the playoffs though. So cast your vote, who do you think is more legit, Bengals or 49ers?