2021 record: 10-7; defeated Raiders, 26-19, in wild-card round; defeated Titans, 19-16, in divisional round; defeated Chiefs, 27-24 in OT, in AFC championship game; lost to Rams, 23-20, in Super Bowl LVI
2022 bye week: 10
Most impactful additions: T La’El Collins, C Ted Karras, TE Hayden Hurst, S Daxton Hill (first round), DB Cam Taylor (second round)
Most impactful departure: TE CJ Uzomah
Easiest part(s) of schedule: The first four or five weeks could have the Bengals out to a roaring start, and they’ll need to considering how much rougher it gets. (Third toughest schedule in the NFL according to last year’s records.)
Cincinnati opens with Pittsburgh, at Dallas, at the Jets, Miami and at Baltimore. They also have a stretch of Atlanta in Week 7 followed by at Cleveland (very possibly without Deshaun Watson), Carolina and then Pittsburgh after a bye week.
Toughest part(s) of schedule: The above is the good news for the Bengals. After that Week 11 matchup in Pittsburgh, the rest of their schedule is pretty brutal. With a game at Tennessee, they host Kansas City, then Cleveland (likely with Watson) and at Tampa Bay.
Finishing at New England, vs. Buffalo and vs. Baltimore is anything but a picnic, either.
Caesars over/under win total (as of Aug. 24): 9.5 – Over -135 / Under +115; Odds to win Super Bowl LVII +2000
Book it: OVER. Here’s another example of me going into this preview thinking one thing and coming out of it with a different result. Coming off the Super Bowl appearance and youth in certain spots, my original thought was the Bengals would regress and potentially even finish with a losing record.
However, when one puts together the fact they tremendously shored up the spot they needed to shore up most – offensive line – and that they didn’t lose much in personnel, there’s no reason to think not only are 10 wins achievable but likely.
Joe Burrow unquestionably already is a top-10 quarterback (and maybe top 5), while Rummel and LSU alum Ja’Marr Chase shunned fears of his drops as a rookie from last preseason to become a top-tier receiver. Also, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd help to make one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL, along with a premier running back in Joe Mixon.
The division is very balanced, but there’s really no spectacular team in here, except potentially Cleveland if the six-game ban for Watson remains at six games, and they can gain continuity early in his return. Like I said, the Bengals schedule is favorable for a hot start, and there’s no reason to think they can’t be 8-3 or 9-2 by the time they begin that brutal stretch in Week 12.
While I don’t plan to play any long-range futures with this team like I did last October, I do think the over 9.5 is a safe play, even with laying that juice of -135.
Projected finish: 10-7
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