Welcome to the 12th ever edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race in the Perspective of Chase’, an almost daily article on your favorite NFL team. Yesterday, we did a combination of the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks after their blockbuster deal that was centered around Russell Wilson going to Denver. But Cincinnati didn’t have as busy of an offseason, since they’ve already built a foundation that made the Super Bowl last season and will be near there for years to come! But can they make it back there, with a more improved Chargers, Bills, Ravens and Raiders? Lets, get into this!
Going into the 2021 season, Cincinnati seemed to be in a very similar boat to what people think of the Jacksonville Jaguars going into the season. On my NFL Power Rankings 1.0 (that I have saved privately and will share soon) before the 2021 season, I had Cincinnati at #23 and said the Burrow-Chase connection was going to be dangerously competitive. But I specifically stated that they weren’t going to make the playoffs. Well, I was very wrong about that like everyone else. Cincinnati finished 10-7 and 1st in the AFC North last season. They ended up beating Las Vegas, #1 seeded Tennessee and Kansas City en route to the franchise first Super Bowl appearance since 1988! However, the Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald led Rams were too dominant for anybody, as they took down the Bengals in a very competitive game! It was a great to see Joe Burrow lead this Bengals to success for the first time in a very long time. Literally the last time they made the playoffs, Andy Dalton was a Pro Bowl caliber player. You can tell that was a long time ago!
After major success in 2021, Cincinnati new coming into the offseason that they had a great foundation to succeed. It was just about improving the offensive line, re signing Eli Apple and making sure to either resign C.J. Uzomah or move onto someone with similar abilities. They started off the offseason by locking down coach of the year finalist, Zac Taylor. Taylor did an incredible job leading Cincinnati the success and should have won coach of the year. He signed a 5 year contract extension and he will be there for years to come. Cincinnati did end up losing C.J. Uzomah but replaced him with Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst. Losing a close to 500 yard receiver last season (and he was also only going to get better) does hurt, but Hayden Hurst is a very good replacement. He is not as elusive or as much of an electric runner like Uzomah, but is a very good run blocker and receiver when weapons are around him.
Hurst was a 2nd-3rd string tight end in Baltimore during their 14-2 season in 2019. He received 349 yards that season. Then he left for Atlanta in 2020 and exploded being their #1 tight end, but also was the third or fourth option behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. He received a career high 571 yards and six touchdowns. But this season as the backup behind Kyle Pitts, Hurst only had 221 receiving yards because of a lack of targets. However, everyone forgets that once he gets the right amount of touches while also not being a top tier option, he could have a lot of success in the receiving game and the run blocking game as well. While losing a progressing Uzomah hurts, with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd at the wide receiver and Joe Burrow at quarterback, Hurst can have a lot of success at the TE1 spot for them.
They also improved the offensive line significantly which was a need. The Bengals allowed 51 sacks last season, which the third most in the NFL. The teams with more sacks were the Bears (because they have a poor offensive line) and Baltimore who had injuries all over the place. The fact that Cincinnati had the success they had without a good offensive line is extraordinary! But now that offensive line has been upgraded. Cincinnati stole Pro Bowl caliber offensive tackle Alex Cappa away from Tampa Bay! Cappa is a proven Super Bowl winning offensive tackle for the best pocket passer in NFL history. Now how much do you think Burrow’s pocket passing ability will become?! They also signed La’el Collins and Ted Karras which are big upgrades as well. This offensive line is much better and improves this team.
They also made some upgrades in the NFL draft. Cincinnati drafted Michigan safety Daxton Hill. Hill is one of my favorite, underrated secondary players from this years draft. He’s quick and athletic and will develop under Jessie Bates and Von Bell. They also resigned Apple, which makes this secondary one of the most scarcely underrated secondary’s in the NFL! That was pretty much it for their offseason. But that was a productive offseason. However, I don’t think Cincinnati’s record will change much in 2022. They have the 7th toughest schedule in the NFL according to sharpfootballanalysis.com. The AFC North is also much tougher this year, with Baltimore now being healthy and Cleveland having Deshaun Watson (even if he’s suspended for six games and Cincinnati doesn’t play Cleveland while he’s suspended).
Cincinnati has the talent to succeed. I just think in a much tougher AFC, as well as one of the toughest schedules in all of the National Football League, Cincinnati may have trouble finding its self back in the Super Bowl. However, this team has all of the talent in the world to do and a way improved offensive line to do it. However, we’ll probably watch Burrow prove all of us wrong…again!
My prediction: Cincinnati finishes 10-7 (same record as 2021), but as the 2nd in the AFC North and a two way tie for the final two wild card spots put Cincinnati as the 7th seed, but a loss to Buffalo in the Wild Card round!
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