Team Capsules: Cincinnati Bengals

August 10, 2023

A look at every NFL franchise heading into the 2023 season

© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Is this the year?

Is it finally time? That doggone Joe Burrow is just too good to not win a Super Bowl, right? He’s a gamer. He’s got moxie. He’s got Ja’Marr Chase.

He’s got… the Chiefs in his way… the Bills in his way.

There’s no such thing as a lock to win the Super Bowl in August. Between injuries and sheer luck, even the best of teams must catch a little lightning in a bottle in order to go the distance. But if there’s one thing we know about the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s that they’re close. So close.

For two seasons now, they’ve surprised everyone in the postseason. Following the 2021 season, they spoiled Kansas City’s party at Arrowhead as they punched their ticket to the Super Bowl. And last season, they shocked everyone’s favorite darling, the Buffalo Bills, on the road in a blizzard.

Perhaps more than anyone else, the Bengals themselves believe that it’s their time. Let’s assess that notion.

What to like about the Bengals…

  • All Joe Cool needs is to get in. For the Bengals – who are currently at -320 to make the postseason – just getting into the playoffs is reason enough to think they can go all the way. If Joe Burrow is anything, he’s clutch. He’s gone toe-to-toe with the best of the modern era quarterbacks – and beaten both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen in the playoffs, both on the road. And remember, in 2021, Cincy advanced to the Super Bowl as the No. 4 seed; last season they lost at Kansas City by three lousy points in the AFC Championship Game. If Joe gets in, Joe’s got a shot.
  • Ja’Marr Chase is a great player. Period. Despite sitting out five games with an injury last season, Chase still managed to post 1,047 yards and actually had more total catches than his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2021. His chemistry with Burrow is unmatched and defenses know he’s going to be targeted. But they still can’t stop him. Every championship team needs a superstar playmaker, and Chase is exactly that.
  • Cincinnati has one of the game’s best “front seven” on defense. Despite some losses in the secondary – which may not be as big as initially feared, considering the play of But 2022 second-rounder Cam Taylor-Britt and 2023 second-rounder DJ Turner II so far in camp – it’s the Bengals pass rushers and run stoppers that make their defense Super Bowl worthy. Last season, they ranked 7th in rush yards per game, 4th in total sacks and 5th in points allowed.

What not to like about the Vikings…

  • Is Joe Burrow really okay? A calf strain is the diagnosis, and on the surface, that news sure beat a lot of alternatives. But the team is also saying he’ll be out “several weeks.” Perhaps that’s precautionary; perhaps the injury is a little more serious than anyone in Cincy wants to admit. Either way, everyone would just prefer to see No. 9 perfectly healhy.  
  • Even if the strength of the Bengals defense is up front, losing most the secondary, no matter who’s stepping up in camp, is a concern. Free agency hit the defensive backfield bigtime, as safeties Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, as well as cornerbacks Tre Flowers and Eli Apple all split. Only time will tell how impactful the losses might be.
  • You can “like” the Bengals all you want, but the fact remains it’s still a three-horse race in the AFC. And all three horses are all pretty darn good. As much as everyone in Cincinnati feels like this is their year, fans and players in Buffalo feel the same way. Kansas City could have a Super Bowl hangover, but that feels like a risky assumption so long as Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are still on the roster. The healthy return of Lamar Jackson, along with a full season slated for Deshaun Watson’s, makes the entire AFC North a lot trickier. The bet is still with the Bengals, but there’s no doubt it’s never going to be easy.

Steve Quinne’s Pick: Bengals to win Super Bowl LVIII (+900)

Is it a trendy pick? That’s debatable. The Chiefs at +600 doesn’t feel like enough value. The Bills at +900 feels more like reputation than reality; remember, the Bills looked like a flawed team in the playoffs last season, barely sneaking by the Dolphins in the Wild Card before they got beat by Burrow and Co. in the Divisional round. So long as Burrow and Chase stay healthy, the Bengals have both the personnel and the swagger to win it all. Everyone can agree that the Bengals are one of the elite teams in the AFC, so don’t mess around with the obvious bets that offer lower returns. Go all in on Cincy, while the odds are favorable.