Can the Cincinnati Bengals win the AFC North for the second year in a row?
Can Bengals take AFC North for second year in a row?After a postseason where it seemed destined that the Kansas City Chiefs or the Buffalo Bills would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, the Cincinnati Bengals came out of nowhere and did the improbable, and now they’re looking to do it again.
As it stands now, the Baltimore Ravens are the odds-on favorite to win the AFC North division with +160 odds.
The Bengals currently have the second-best odds to win the division at +180, but it is worth noting that the franchise hasn’t won the AFC North in back-to-back seasons since 1981-1982. As long as the Bengals can stay healthy, they’ll have a great shot at winning the AFC North for the second year in a row.
A Monster Offense
Where do I even start with this offense? Joe Burrow? Ja’Marr Chase? Joe Mixon? Tee Higgins? Every single one of the aforementioned players had a remarkable season last year and none of them have shown any signs of remotely slowing down.
Chase and Higgins combined for 115 catches, 2,546 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns last season and they’re both in their early 20s. The Chase-Higgins wide receiver duo is one of the best in the NFL and they’re only getting better.
Running back Joe Mixon had a career year for the Bengals last year, rushing for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns, while also catching 34 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. When Mixon is at his best, usually that means the Bengals offense is clicking on all cylinders.
After sustaining a torn ACL in his rookie year, Burrow came back in a big way in his sophomore season, throwing for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns. With another year of familiarity in head coach Zac Taylor’s offense, Burrow is set to take another leap next season.
The main issue with the offense the past couple of years has been the offensive line. During last season, the Bengals gave up 55 sacks, the third-most in the entire league.
In an effort to thwart their offensive line problems, the Bengals signed offensive tackle La’ el Collins to a three-year contract. Last season, Collins earned an offensive grade of 80.2 from Pro Football Focus which would have been the highest grade of any Bengals offensive lineman.
The franchise knows they have to protect Burrow at all costs, especially with what he’s been through just two years into his career. The offensive line still has a ways to go, but the Collins signing is a step in the right direction.
Addressing the defense
To be frank, the Bengals defense was below average last year. They were the 17th ranked defense in the league, but found a way to help the Bengals get to the Super Bowl.
Even with that in mind, the Bengals had one thing in mind when they went into the 2022 NFL draft: defense.
With five of their six picks, the Bengals elected to choose a defensive player. Those five players being: safety Daxton Hill, cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, defensive tackle Zachary Carter, safety Tycen Anderson and edge rusher Jeffrey Gunter.
The Bengals have some good pieces on defense like Trey Hendrickson and Jessie Bates II, but they’ll need a collective effort on defense if they want to take another step as a team.
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