The Cincinnati Bengals were the worst team in the NFL during the 2019 season. Below-par play from quarterback Andy Dalton — who is now with the Dallas Cowboys –, awful play from the offensive line and a plethora of defensive problems saw them stumble to a NFL consensus and league-worst 2-14 record. However, things are about to change for the franchise and while a dramatic turnaround isn’t expected, they should be considerably better than in 2019.
First, the Bengals completed a huge upgrade at quarterback with the acquisition of Joe Burrow, from LSU, with their first overall pick. Coming off a historically good season at the CFB that saw him win the Heisman Trophy in dominant fashion, Burrow’s traits should translate well to the NFL. He might not be a star from Week 1, but he has what it takes to thrive in this league. He should be a better option than Dalton, who is past his prime and better suited for a back-up role at this stage of his career.
The rest of the offensive weapons shouldn’t be overlooked, though. Joe Mixon is a three-down back who is coming back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Tyler Boyd topped 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in 2019, and A.J. Green should be healthy after dressing for just nine games in the past two seasons. They also added reinforcements to the offensive line, such as Xavier Su’a-Filo and Alex Redmond.
The defense remains suspect, although they can’t be any worse than in 2019 where they allowed 6,299 total yards, the fourth-worst mark in the league. The Bengals also finished dead last in yards per play (6.1), net yards per passing attempt (7.4). Their defense is not going to win them many games, but their offense should keep them in most contests — unlike what happened in 2019. In any case, the additions of players such as D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander should boost the quality on that side of the ball considerably. The Bengals were one of the worst NFL picks against the spread last season and it is hard to pin that on either the offense or the defense but they will need improvements on defense to even compete against the line.
The Bengals share division with the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the title-contending Baltimore Ravens. They will also face teams from the AFC South, the NFC East, the Miami Dolphins and the Los Angeles Chargers. It won’t be easy to return to relevancy, but Cincinnati should be able to win more than five games this season. They own enough weapons to do so.
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