No. Because Joe Burrow is the quarterback. Ja’Marr Chase is the WR1. Defense is locked, stored and loaded. And the offensive line is FINALLY, greatly improved. So yeah…look, fuck, the haters and the skeptics.
One day when the season draws near, I will review every game and make a record prediction. For now, we’ll start with breakdowns on the most-watched matchups — and some solid rationale as to how the Bengals can win them all.
Week 4 – vs. Miami Dolphins (Thursday, September 29 at 8:15 p.m. ET on Amazon Prime Video)
Even though Tyreek Hill had no grip in Cincinnati’s stunning rally to win the AFC Championship game, he’s going to be a problem to deal with. Hill and Jaylen Waddle give Miami arguably the most explosive pair of receivers in the entire NFL. So even if the Bengals deploy some of the tactics that helped contain Hill in KC, Waddle will still draw favorable one-on-one matchups.
New Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel is building his offense around a zone running game. He has a strong stable of fullbacks to work with, and the o line should be improved from last year with the additions of tackle Terron Armstead and guard Connor Williams. However, Tua Tagovailoa is still an unknown commodity at the most important position, and Cincinnati has…? Joe Terrier.
The Bengals also have plenty of point guards in their receiving corps. It’s not like Miami can turn this into a shootout and make it work in their favor. McDaniel’s inexperience as a head coach is more likely to show up in a short week of preparation. The huge advantage Burrow has head-to-head against Tagovailoa is a huge disparity that I don’t see the Dolphins overcoming, especially on the road.
I’m here for the McDaniel soundbites first and foremost about Miami, TBH.
Week 5 – at the Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, Oct. 9 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC)
I fully anticipate the Ravens playing ANGRY in 2022. They’ve been ravaged by injuries more than any team I can remember in the past few years. Lamar Jackson went down late in the season which is why they missed the playoffs.
Two of Baltimore’s final four first-round picks will go a long way in determining the outcome of this clash with AFC North. Sophomore rookie Rashod Bateman had a quiet rookie campaign. He will be considered Jackson’s WR1 following the trade with Hollywood Brown. I also think the weird contract situation with Jackson and the fact that he hasn’t negotiated a new deal yet, combined with Brown’s unceremonious exit and Greg Roman’s questionable play design, has the potential to cause friction.
That other draft pick for the Ravens I’m referring to is first-year safety Kyle Hamilton. I don’t know how Baltimore will roll it out. They already have Marcus Williams and Chuck Clark in place. Hamilton can be a big nickel and something of a freelancer in many places. I’m skeptical that he and Bateman will be ready to make massive, game-changing impacts in Week 5 – and I liked them both as prospects.
None of Baltimore’s passing throwers really scare me, and Cincinnati’s revamped offensive line should be able to withstand the exotic pressures the Ravens like to throw at all their foes. This Bengals receiving corps is one of the few that can win the majority of the time against Baltimore’s stacked defensive field. Additionally, Burrow wiped out the Ravens in 2021 with 941 passing yards, seven touchdowns and a 131.1 rating in two starts.
Week 8 – at Cleveland Browns (Monday, October 31 at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN)
This one doesn’t require as much explanation. If Deshaun Watson is suspended, Cincinnati wins this first leg. Even in the case where Watson Is costume, it will be subjected to all sorts of tests. All of the pre-game conversation will revolve around the pending civil lawsuits filed against him for sexual misconduct, assuming they aren’t settled by then. Watson has given no indication that he will settle down and fight to clear his name.
It’s so weird to imagine the Browns hosting a prime-time game, with their fans and the Dawg Pound going absolutely nuts for a QB with such disturbing accusations from 22 different women hanging over his head. It’s going to be a weird and awkward night, to say the least.
Nick Chubb is an absolute beast in the Cleveland backfield. If the Bengals can prioritize stopping Chubb, they match well at fullback with a mostly uninspiring Browns receiving corps. Their No. 1 target, Amari Cooper, has gone for four 100-yard games in his last 28 starts. Ja’Marr Chase from Cincinnati had four in a five-game streak towards the end of last season and into the playoffs.
I know Burrow projects the coolest, calmest exterior and doesn’t let much get to him. Don’t you think he’s heard all the bullshit about not beating the Browns so far? Here’s another accomplishment to add to Burrow’s growing resume. It’ll be even easier if Jacoby Brissett is the Halloween night counterpart of Joey B.
Week 11 – at the Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Nov. 20 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC)
“Well, the Bengals have Joe Burrow and the other team doesn’t.” That might be reason enough to pick Cincinnati to win on any given Sunday. In this case, it is especially true. As much respect as you must have for Heinz Field and what the Steelers accomplished there, I don’t see how Pittsburgh can overcome their division’s worst QB situation.
Whether the Steelers take out rookie Kenny Pickett or eliminate first draft pick Mitch Trubisky to lead the offense, the Bengals secondary should have a field day against them. I’d be more worried about their receiving corps if Chase Claypool wasn’t so inconsistent. They’re also not great at center, left guard and left tackle positions, which doesn’t bode well for their ability to run the ball with Najee Harris or thwart Cincinnati’s strong defensive front.
This Pittsburgh defense is still a year older in key places, especially in the trenches. The unimpressive staff at cornerback is also problematic. Facing Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd won’t help. Even if there’s bad weather in play, Cincinnati’s improved tacklers can help Joe Mixon rack up rushing yards against a Steelers D that ranked DFL in yards per carry allowed (5.0) last year.
In case you need more proof that times are changing…
Week 17 – vs. Buffalo Bills (Monday, Jan. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC)
Oooh boy. The Bills have the QB (Josh Allen) and the guns (led by Stefon Diggs) to take on the defending conference champions. I wasn’t in love with Buffalo’s pass rush…then they decided to mess around and acquire Von Miller. The future Hall of Famer still has plenty in the tank, as we saw him blossom during that Super Bowl run with the Rams.
Buffalo had the sixth-worst point blocking and 14th-worst pass blocking offensive line in the league last year, per PFF. Allen has the ability to improvise, the strength to break tackles and the raw playmaking talent to overcome any shortcomings there, as he is an excellent ball carrier in his own right on designed plays. or on the scrambles.
That’s where we’ll know just how impactful the top of the Bengals’ 2022 draft class can be. Daxton Hill is a gimmicky defensive back who can line up in three-set safety, play a pure slot corner role, or even step out on the perimeter if Lou Anarumo wants to try it there. We can also count on Cam Taylor-Britt to be the CB2 against Chidobe Awuzie, who will have his hands full with Diggs. The hope is that CTB can be an upgrade over Eli Apple. If he is, I’m even more optimistic about the Bengals’ chances of winning, especially at home.
Kaiir Elam is the Bills’ first round set to start at the outside corner, with Tre’Davious White locking down the other half of the court. White comes out of a torn ACL, which is a big deal. Elam is a high-risk, high-reward player the Bengals can exploit as he navigates his first year as a pro. Not that Allen isn’t able to do that at CTB or Apple with his bigger target Gabriel Davis, but I feel like it’s the absolute wheelhouse for Burrow when he shoots Chase and Higgins.
The safety game will figure prominently here as well. Buffalo has one of the best tandems in the game with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Cincinnati has Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. An absolute barn burner all around. So how do the Bengals win this one? Their superior secondary depth, slight o-line advantage and confidence they can gain from their Super Bowl run should all work in their favor in a matchup that should come down to final possession.