Coming into the 2021 National Football League season, few people thought the Cincinnati Bengals would be title contenders.
In fact, according to one source, they had the third-worst odds of winning the Super Bowl when the season began.
As a result, the Bengals finished 10-7, and they won tight playoff contests versus the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs to reach the Super Bowl, where they fell to the Los Angeles Rams.
It appears that some people still think that what Cincinnati did this past season was nothing more than a fluke.
“According to Caesar’s Sportsbooks, the Bengals have the 11th-best odds of winning the Super Bowl and the Cleveland Browns have the best odds of winning the AFC North,” wrote Ben Baby of ESPN.com.
Are the Bengals destined to come back down to Earth in 2022?
Cincinnati Has Quite A Big 3 On Offense
Burrow put up 4,611 passing yards and 34 touchdowns this past season, along with a gaudy passer rating of 108.3.
By leading the Bengals to a clutch win over the two-time defending AFC champion Chiefs, the team that hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy just two years ago, Burrow gained some valuable big-game experience and confidence.
— 49ers & NFL News 24/7 (@49ersSportsTalk) January 30, 2022
In registering 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns, Chase earned himself a trip to the Pro Bowl in just his rookie year.
— Offseason Vonn 🥶🇺🇦 #Rip7 (@OffseasonVonn) May 3, 2022
Running back Joe Mixon is also a game-changer, and the 25-year-old had 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns en route to a Pro Bowl nod of his own.
Behind the three of them, Cincinnati ranked seventh this past season in points scored, passing yards, and passing touchdowns.
In addition, Tee Higgins is a very capable WR2 for the Bengals.
He gave them 1,091 yards and six touchdowns, and he performed well in the Super Bowl, finishing with 100 yards and two scores.
Unfortunately, he just had shoulder surgery, which will prevent him from participating in football activities for several weeks.
Will The Bengals Be Ready To Be The Hunted?
Generally speaking, when a young team emerges the way Cincinnati did in 2021, the rest of the league takes notice, and it heads into the next season with a target on its back.
A fair amount of the time, a team like that will regress a bit, as it may have a tougher schedule, and it will undoubtedly get other teams’ best shot on a regular basis.
The Bengals will have to up their intensity level if they’re to retain control of the AFC North.
The Browns may be a sleeper team in that division, but with star running back Nick Chubb, the arrival of wideout Amari Cooper, and new QB Deshaun Watson, they could challenge for the division crown if enough goes right for them.
Cincinnati’s defense will need to improve, as it ranked just 17th in points allowed, 18th in total yards allowed, and 26th in passing yards allowed.
It used five of its six draft picks last week on defensive players, but it remains to be seen if any of those draft choices will pan out in the pros.