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Bold Predictions for the Bengals in the 2021-2022 Season

Bengals go .500 in the AFC North, including a sweep abasing the Steelers

The Bengals have struggled tremendously in the past few seasons playing their AFC North rivals. For the last 2 seasons, the Bengals went 2-10. This year that will not be the case. I believe that Bengals go .500 in the division. I believe that will come with one win against the Browns, and a sweep over the Steelers.

Last season, the Bengals nearly beat the Browns in week 7, but ended up losing 37-34 thanks to the defense. In week 2 on Thursday night football, the Bengals lost 35-30. Both games the Bengals had legit shots at winning, and I believe they will beat the Browns this year at least once.

Predicting a sweep over the Steelers is bold, especially after the last few years. The win on Monday Night Football was their first time beating the Steelers since November 1st, 2015. However, the Steelers are looking to have a down year. They have one returning starter on the offensive line, lost Bud Dupree, lost all three of their starting corners, and essentially did nothing to upgrade those positions for the upcoming season. To top that, Ben Roethlisberger is still the quarterback, and played very poor the last few weeks of the season. The Bengals have the talent and ability to sweep the Steelers.

Adding even more, there may be even more drama in the Steelers locker room:

Devin Bush made it clear he wasn’t “targeting” Chase Claypool or JuJu Smith-Schuster. However, that’s a very interesting tweet to send out when your teammates use TikTok. 

Jackson Carman Will Start the Year on the Bench

One of the main arguments for the Bengals taking Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell with the 5th pick was the offensive line depth in the draft. Instead of taking an offensive lineman who analyst had 1st round grades on, the Bengals took Jackson Carman, and I believe Carman will not start.

The logic behind this prediction has little to do with Carman as a player, but more of the situation that Zac Taylor is in. Zac Taylor is on the hot seat, and needs wins. Jackson Carman is a project, and the transition into the NFL could be rough. He is playing a new position, and has a lot of technique he needs to work on. With Carman being a project, Taylor may opt to play Xavier Su’a-Filo and Quinton Spain at guards. Neither special, but are lineman who you know what you’re getting with when you put them on the field. With Taylor on the hot seat, he may choose to play the two veterans. If Carman does start and plays poorly, that would (obviously) decrease the Bengals winning chances. Taylor very well could play it safe by starting Su’a-Filo and Quinton Spain. 

Bengals will have a Bottom 5 Defense

On paper, the Bengals defense shouldn’t be among the worsts in the NFL. With the roster they have and having eliteplayers such as Jessie Bates, the defense should at least be in the average range. Not to be a “Negative Nancy”, but I have no faith in Lou Anarumo.

In he past few off-seasons, we’ve seen the Bengals spend big money in free agency. Last off-season, they gave big contracts to Trae Waynes and DJ Reader, and signed players such as Vonn Bell to start. This off-season, we saw the Bengals sign many new starters on the defense, such as Trey Hendrickson, Chidobe Awuzie, and Mike Hilton. The defense has been put in a position to succeed.

Lou Anarumo is simply not a good defensive coordinator. While he has dealt with injuries, a part of being a coach is adapting. Anarumo has failed to accomplished that. His play calling his atrocious. To give a few reminders, week 17 against the Ravens is a great and unfortunate example. Despite having a healthy Darius Phillips, Anarumo put LeShaunSims in man to man coverage against Marquise Brown in the slot with no safety help. That play resulted in a touchdown. Anarumo consistently had Margus Hunt as a QB Spy on Lamar Jackson.

Though the Bengals made many moves to help improve the defense in the off-season, the defense really didn’t improve. Trey Hendrickson replaces Carl Lawson, and that isn’t an upgrade. While Hendrickson had 13 sacks last year and Lawson only had 5.5, one of Lawson’s biggest strength was producing pressure. Something the Bengals defensive line failed to do. A fair amount of Hendrickson’s sacks last year came off the Saints defensive line providing pressure and making the quarterback move around. The Bengals didn’t do much to add players to the defensive line who can bring pressure. While Hendrickson is a good player who is still improving, he won’t find that same level of success he had last year. DJ Reader being healthy this year (knock on wood) will help provide pressure, but he is not a true pass rusher. From time to time, he can collapse the pocket, but he won’t be able to do that consistently. The Bengals did draft Joseph Ossai and Cam Sample in the 3rd and 4th rounds of the NFL draft, but expecting them to be consistent pass rusher in their rookie year isn’t realistic.

In the secondary, the Bengals made a lot of moves, but did they really improve all that much? The Bengals let William Jackson walk, and Trae Waynes will be the new corner one. Is Trae Waynes an upgrade? I wouldn’t say so. Both Jackson and Waynes are extremely inconsistent. The Bengals let Mackensie Alexander walk and to replace him, signed Mike Hilton. Hilton is an extremely good slot corner, and is an upgrade over Alexander (look at me being positive!). With all that being said, the upgrade won’t make significant improvements to the defense. One of the most interesting signings was Chidobe Awuzie. Due to the Trae Waynes injury last year, the Bengals really missed having a two true starting outside corners. LeShaun Sims and Darius Phillips often shared that role. Sims played extremely poor, and Phillips was OK. Awuzie is an upgrade. But like many players in the past for the Bengals, he has his health concerns. He played in just 8 games last season, and had an interception. He’s only played in all 16 games in one season (2019). However, Awuzie is athletic and still has upside. But will Anarumo be the one to unleash it? Regardless, if Awuzie can start healthy, he is an upgrade and the Bengals will have two true starting outside corners. But much like Hilton, the upgrade likely won’t affect the Bengals defense significantly.

The Bengals defense gave up 30 or more points in 7 games last year. It’s hard to imagine the Bengals defense not being one of the worst with, at best, a very slight upgrade and the same defensive coordinator. And in the division where they play the Browns and Ravens twice a year, the defense will struggle.

Joe Burrow Throws for 40 or more Touchdowns

Time to stop being negative. Despite his season ending short last year, Joe Burrow was showing the NFL that his amazing college season was no fluke. In the 10 games he played, (Really 9.5 games played), Burrow threw for 2,688, and 13 touchdowns. If we divide the 13 touchdowns by the 9.5 games he played, that averages to 1.37 touchdowns a game, and based off that average, he would have nearly thrown 22 touchdowns on the season. If we divide the 2,688 yards he played in the 9.5 games, that averages to 282.95 yards per game. If you multiply that by 16, then Burrow was on pace for 4,527 yards on the season. Of course, we will never know what the specific numbers would be. If he played in at least 1 more game those numbers could be extremely different. However, since he didn’t, we can really base it off those stats. With all that being said, Burrow was on pace to throw for over 4,500 yards and 22 touchdowns as a rookie. To add to those incredible stats, Burrow was on pace to achieve those numbers with one of the worst offensive lines in the league, a regressing AJ Green, and an injured CJ Uzomah who tore his Achilles week 2. With an improved offensive line, the addition of Ja’Marr Chase, a healthy CJ Uzomah, and another game added to play in the season, Joe Burrow can achieve throwing 40 or more touchdowns. To achieve that, Burrow would need to average 2.35 touchdowns a game. Obviously, throwing touchdowns comes at complete numbers, not decimals. Essentially, if Burrow throws 2 to 3 touchdowns weekly, he should be able to throw 40 touchdowns. With the way the offense has been built, throwing for multiple touchdowns a game should be expected. The Bengals picked Ja’Marr Chase 5th overall, have Tyler Boyd, one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, and Tee Higgins coming into his 2nd year who nearly broke 1,000 yards in his rookie season. In addition to that, Joe Mixion and CJ Uzomah being healthy just adds to how dangerous this offense can be. The Bengals offense should be among the best in the league and I believe Joe Burrow will support my argument by throwing for at least 40 touchdowns. 

Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd will all have over 1,000 receiving yards 

Going off my last point, this offense should be explosive and score many points. Both Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd were on pace for 1,000 yards before Burrow got injured. Implementing Chase in the offense will help them. More weapons on the field will create more favorable matches. It keeps the defense on their feet. With now 17 games, each receiver would need to average just under 59 yards per game. Burrow, who nearly averaged 283 passing yards per game as a rookie and terrible offensive line, should have no issue surpassing his average yards per game. If all receivers play to their expectations, and Burrow at the least plays par (which we should expect him to get better) from last year, 1,000 yards for each receiver is extremely doable.

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