The AFC North has received a lot of offseason attention largely because three of its four teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns made the playoffs last season.
The Cincinnati Bengals were largely overlooked and not viewed as having high 2021 playoff expectations.
While it is only Week 1, the Bengals, led by quarterback Joe Burrow, are looking to change the AFC North narrative.
Your AFC North standings after week one:
1. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
3. Baltimore Ravens (0-1)
4. Cleveland Browns (0-1)
— Blake Jewell (@BlakeJewellNFL) September 14, 2021
Bengals Win Opener Over Vikings
How are Burrow and the Bengals doing this?
By winning, of course.
The Bengals took advantage of the Vikings’ sloppy and errant play in Week 1 to score a big win.
The Steelers were the only other AFC North to win their season opener so the Bengals are currently tied for first place.
Week 2 Game Against The Bears
The Bengals will take on the Chicago Bears in Week 2.
What is their competitive advantage?
They have the right quarterback on the field in Joe Burrow.
Burrow himself looked great against the Vikings; he bounced back after the ACL and MCL injuries that shortened his rookie season.
It remains to be seen if the Bears have the right quarterback on the field in Andy Dalton or the winning formula for beating the Bengals in Week 2.
Beyond Week 2
Besides two games with each of the fellow AFC North teams, the Bengals have an interesting and sometimes challenging mix of opponents in 2021.
There are the teams with rookie quarterbacks, the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets.
Burrow will go up against the reigning NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers, with a home game against the Packers on October 10.
The Los Angeles Chargers with another second-year quarterback, Justin Herbert, is also on the Bengals’ docket at home on December 5.
The reigning AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs are on the schedule for a January 2 home game.
It is only Week 2 so right now all 32 NFL teams have bright prospects for 2021.
Keeping Burrow upright and healthy must be a priority for the Bengals to have a chance at sneaking into the playoffs.
One thing is for sure, they are the most under-the-radar team in the AFC North so they have absolutely no pressure.
The LSU Connection Knows How To Win
Teams with Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase on them are 17-0 in their last 17 pic.twitter.com/IS8I3l9Ss2
— Smurph (@Samuel_Murphy20) September 13, 2021
Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s preseason drops were the headline story.
Burrow was not worried.
“He’s getting better every day. When you’re practicing in the NFL for the first time, you have revelations every single practice. He’s going to make a lot of big plays for us. We’re going to get him the ball in space and he’s going to score a lot of touchdowns.”
Chase had the drops out of his system in Week 1.
Oh, hello! Joe Burrow 50-yard TD to Ja'Marr Chase. LSU connection in Cincy! pic.twitter.com/9PyZz1gseF
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 12, 2021
He hauled in 5 passes out of 7 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Not a bad rookie debut and his chemistry and relationship with Burrow could take the Bengals a long way.
Whether it is this year or in the years ahead, the Bengals will be a playoff team.
They are young, exciting, and fun to watch.