A.J. Green Wide Receiver 6-4, 207 Has simply been one of the NFL’s most productive receivers since the Bengals made him the No. 4 overall pick out of Georgia in 2011. Continuing his connection with quarterback Andy Dalton, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012, significantly increasing his production in each category. He ranks fourth in the NFL in touchdowns, sixth in receptions and 10th in yards. Early in the season, he became the first NFL player to reach 100 receptions, 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first 20 games (101, 1,550, 11). His best game came in Week 6 against Cleveland, when he caught seven passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
Andy Dalton Quarterback 6-2, 220 Following his breakout rookie season, Dalton increased his passing yards (3,669, from 3,398) and touchdowns (27, from 20) while also improving his passer rating from 80.4 to 87.4 this season. His yardage total ranks 16th in the NFL, but he tied Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman for seventh on the league’s touchdown list. During the Bengals’ 7-1 stretch to close the season, Dalton threw 13 touchdown passes against five interceptions. After becoming the first non-first-round quarterback to start every game of a 16-game season in 2011 (he was a second-round pick in 2011 from TCU), Dalton again started every game in 2012. He also became just the third quarterback, along with Dan Marino and Peyton Manning, to throw for at least 20 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons.
Vontaze Burfict Linebacker 6-1, 245 Burfict capped his surprising season with 18 tackles against Baltimore in Week 17. The college free agent from Arizona State finished the regular season with the team lead in tackles, at 127. Burfict set a team record for starts by a rookie signed as a college free agent (14), and he produced three double-digit tackles games this season. He made a steady rise from special teams player in the season opener to backup linebacker in Week 2 to starter in Week 3, when he logged seven tackles against Washington. Seen as one of the Bengals’ biggest gambles in the offseason, Burfict has put together arguably the best season ever for a Bengals rookie signed as a college free agent.
Geno Atkins Defensive Tackle 6-1, 300 Atkins has produced 12.5 sacks this season, an eye-popping number for an interior defensive lineman. As evidence, his sack number is 5.5 more than the next defensive tackle total. His 53 tackles rank fifth on the roster and have continued a steady increase since the Bengals made him a fourth-round pick out of Georgia in 2010. From 2010 to 2012, his tackles increased from 16 to 53, and his sacks increased from 3.0 to 12.5. In Cincinnati’s playoff-clinching win against Pittsburgh in Week 16, he sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice, forced a fumble and collected nine tackles, a performance that earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.