There is a saying that "to whom much is given, much is expected."
Well, the opposite was supposed to be true for the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals.
What was expected? Another losing season and a high draft pick to continue the rebuilding process. ESPN's Week 1 Power Rankings had the Bengals dead last, and most prognosticators had them as the worst team in the AFC North, if not the entire NFL.
Instead, the Bengals sit in second place in the AFC North at 5-2, are riding a four-game winning streak and have been making bettors very happy.
The NFL Sweat Barometer, brainchild of Chad Millman and Sal Selvaggio of MadduxSports.com, measures the margin by which teams cover -- or don't cover -- the spread each week (for a more detailed explanation, check out the box to the right). Cincinnati is the fourth-best team in the SB currently, covering games by better than a touchdown (SB: 7.71) despite having an average closing line of plus-.86.
The issue? To say the Bengals' schedule has been soft would be an understatement: The winning percentage of Cincinnati's opponents is just .391. Against teams under .500, the Bengals are 5-0 ATS with an SB number of 10.3, including 4-0 SU and ATS on the road (SB: minus-11.5).
"The Bengals have been a surprise to most this season," says Geoff Kulesa of Wunderdog Sports. "But should they really be such a surprise? Last year the Bengals suffered from a minus-8 turnover margin laid on top of the absolute toughest schedule of any team, so they weren't as bad as advertised. This year the turnovers have been more even and they have faced one of the easiest schedules in the league."
On Sunday, Cincinnati faces the Tennessee Titans (SB: minus-2) as three-point underdogs. Seem like a strong play against a Titans team that's been blown out in two of its past three games?
"Cincy is still somewhat unappreciated by many, but this isn't a great spot for the Bengals," notes Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hilton. "They just traveled to the Northwest and now they have to go on the road again. Usually, that is a tough spot for anyone."
Regardless of whose advice you take, just remember that the Titans are last in the league in rushing yards per game, the Bengals are second in the NFL with 85.4 rushing yards allowed per game and Cincinnati is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games against AFC opponents.
Here's the Week 9 NFL Sweat Barometer: