If they are finally going to make it out of the Wild Card round of the playoffs, though, they will need the defense to play better than they did in allowing at least 25 points in four of the final five games last season.
Prior to Atkins' 2013 ACL tear, he ranked with J.J. Watt as the game's dominant defensive linemen. Judging by practice reports, that dominance has returned this year.
This comes on the heels of an impressive offseason, in which defensive line coach Jay Hayes raved that it was "scary how fast and explosive he is right now."
Atkins was once compared to the Tasmanian Devil for terrorizing guards and centers with a unique combination of leverage, strength and quickness.
If he has truly regained that difference-making form, the Bengals' roster can compete with any in the AFC this season.