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Can the Cincinnati Bengals Get Back to the Super Bowl?



Making it to the Super Bowl is hard - getting there for a second time is damn near impossible. Just ask Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, Steve Young, and Matt Ryan. It's not enough to be good, you have to be lucky. Even if the Cincinnati Bengals got better, which they did, is that enough to make it back to the dance?


Are the Cincinnati Bengals Super Bowl Contenders?

Joe Burrow had one of the most impressive college seasons I've ever seen and now one of the most impressive NFL seasons I've ever seen, albeit for different reasons.


In college, Joe Burrow was operating a high-performance machine. Even if he weren't at the controls, the LSU offense would've been a fun ride. Instead, the addition of Burrow made it the most incredible ride of all time, an offensive marvel we'll be studying in awe for years to come.


The 2021 Bengals season was a grueling marathon. A trip to Mordor that had Burrow battling defenders and fighting for his life. Few games came easy, but Joe constantly aced every challenge thrown his way and dragged his o-line all the way to the Super Bowl before they finally succumbed to Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Los Angeles Rams. The Bengals weren't impressive cause of the great feats they accomplished, but because of the obstacles they overcame.




Offense

You heard it screamed from the mountain tops how miserable the Bengals offensive line was last season. Burrow was sacked 51 times in the regular season and an additional 19(!) times in the playoffs. That's a lot of time spent in the dirt. In an effort to save their savior, they replaced 3/5's of the line. Center Ted Karras from the Patriots, guard Alex Cappa from the Buccaneers, and right tackle La'el Collins from the Cowboys were brought in as significant upgrades to this o-line, and they are significant upgrades.


Here's the thing though, Burrow does have a habit of hanging on to the ball for too long. It works out cause he does create big plays for his team by doing this. However, for career longevity's sake, he should try to get the ball out quicker, even if his o-line is much improved. It's a minor criticism of what's otherwise a stellar resume. Burrow was lights out last season, and his ability to make plays all over the field in any situation is a big reason why.


The other reason for the Bengals' big-play ability is their sterling group of receivers. Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd are an embarrassment of riches for any quarterback. They are the best receiver trio in the league, and Joe Burrow utilized their talents to the fullest. Despite being sacked 51 times during the regular season, this offense still gained 7.2 Net Yards per Pass Attempt, good for third in the league.


The offense only gained 4.0 Yards per Rush Attempt, 24th overall, in 2021, but that should be improved with the additions to the offensive line. If the new o-line pans out, and there's no reason to think otherwise, expect the Bengals' offense to be among the most dangerous in the league.




Defense

Cincinnati's defense was the definition of solid but unspectacular in 2021. They were middle of the pack in nearly every category. Yards per play, turnovers, sacks, whatever it was, they were in the middle. However, they seemed to have a knack for showing up in big moments, especially against the Chiefs, as they'd turn into the Steel Curtain right at the goal line in the biggest moment of their season.


Trey Hendrickson followed up a breakout 2020 campaign with another 14 sacks and his linemate, Sam Hubbard, joined in on the fun, tallying another 7.5. Their next best player in the trenches was defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who left for Pittsburgh, but that loss shouldn't sting too much as B.J. Hill and D.J. Reader can fill those shoes admirably.


The Bengals secondary will hopefully get a shot in the arm with the addition of first-round pick Dax Hill out of Michigan. Jessie Bates and Chidobe Awuzie were both between above-average and good until the playoffs, when they turned it on, and Bates came up with some timely interceptions against the Titans and Rams. Hill Plays like he was shot out of a cannon at all times. He excels in zone coverage, reading the quarterback, and using his otherworldly speed to get downhill and break up plays or make a mess in the backfield regularly. Eli Apple remains a liability.




Are The Bengals Super Bowl Bound?

The AFC is stacked. Just making the playoffs will be an impressive feat in 2022. I've already written about the Bills, Chiefs, and Ravens, while the Chargers, Broncos, Titans, and Colts are also hopefuls. It's going to be a blood bath in the AFC, but the Bengals and Joe Burrow are equipped to handle it. However, the defense will be a bit of a question mark as to whether they can either improve or continue making big plays in the biggest moments.


If you're a Bengals fan though, you must be ecstatic. Long gone are the days of paper bags and the Bungles - You've now been bestowed with one of the coolest players in league history and an offense that's must-see TV every Sunday.