The Cincinnati Bengals nearly had one of the underdog seasons for the ages in the NFL as they were projected to be one of the league’s worst teams in 2021 yet made the Super Bowl and nearly knocked off the Rams in it. Oddsmakers are obviously a lot higher on Joe Burrow & Co. entering this season. Let’s take a look at the following analysis for your NFL Odds.
NFL 2022 Season Guide | Cincinnati Bengals
Last season marked the Bengals’ third conference championship, matching the franchise’s feats from the 1981 and 1988 seasons. Historically, Cincinnati has been unable to sustain postseason success. The Bengals have never won playoff games in back-to-back seasons.
The Bengals probably were going to improve a lot last season simply because Joe Burrow stayed healthy. The former No. 1 overall pick and Heisman winner showed some flashes of brilliance in his 2020 rookie season before suffering a season-ending injury in the 10th game.
“Going into last year, we knew we were good, but I think going into the playoffs, we knew we could win but we weren’t really sure what it took,” Burrow said this week. “We just went out there and played really hard and together as a team, and it worked out. Now, we know what it takes and we have that experience in our back pockets going forward.”
Burrow got a huge boost in the 2021 draft when the Bengals selected his former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5 overall. Chase started every regular-season game, amassing 81 catches for 1,455 yards, a stout average of 18 yards per catch, and 13 touchdowns. No rookie in the Super Bowl piled up more receiving yards, and the total was a franchise record, as well, breaking Chad Johnson’s mark of 1,440. Chase’s 266 yards in a Week 17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs were a single-game rookie record.
With Chase taking the top off defenses downfield, opposing defenses couldn’t afford to cheat against the run, and running back Joe Mixon took advantage with his best season as a pro (1,205 yards, 13 touchdowns).
Speaking at OTAs recently, Chase said he felt more comfortable with the team’s offense: “Last year I was just out there running routes, having fun again. Now I’ve got all the small details down, like learning how to set people up before the next route. And I feel more comfortable with the offense. Maybe I can move around a little more when we see different things on film. I feel like all of that’s going to make me a lot better this year.”
If there was one issue last year with the Bengals, it was the offensive line. Cincinnati gave up 19 sacks in the postseason, the most of any team to play in the Super Bowl over the past decade. In the 2021 playoffs, Burrow’s pressure rate of 35.2% was the fourth-highest of any quarterback.
This offseason, the Bengals added three starters on the offensive line in free agency — center Ted Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’el Collins — to bolster a unit that gave up 51 regular-season sacks. With 2021 second-rounder Jackson Carman expected to compete for a starting job, the Bengals could have as many as four new starters up front in Week 1 this season.
Cincinnati used its first three selections in the 2022 draft to address the defense. Safety Daxton Hill from Michigan was the team’s first-round pick. The Bengals picked up a position of need with a player they weren’t expecting to be available at No. 31. Hill will give the Bengals a lot of schematic versatility, which is something that allowed defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo to thrive in 2021. With Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell slotted as the starting safeties, Hill can be used in dime packages and find his footing in the NFL before he takes on a full-time role.
The Bengals captured the nation’s attention during their Super Bowl run last season. That success was rewarded with five prime-time games in 2022, including two appearances on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Cincinnati had just three prime-time games in the previous three seasons combined.
Cincinnati opens on Sept. 11 at home vs. Pittsburgh as the Steelers begin the post-Ben Roethlisberger era. The Bengals were 2-0 vs. the Steelers last year, making it Cincinnati’s first season sweep of the Steelers since 2009. The Bengals opened as 6.5-point favorites
Bengals Expert Pick
10-7 record, repeat as AFC North champions. No return to Super Bowl.