After a devastating knee injury ended his promising rookie campaign early last year, will Joe Burrow have a breakout year and find some chemistry with former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase?
There’s no question the Cincinnati Bengals have been at the bottom of the AFC North division for years, but it looks like they’ve finally found a franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow. The 2019 Heisman Trophy winner had a strong start to his rookie campaign last year until a serious knee injury in Week 11 ended his season. After years of terrible play, expectations are starting to grow in Cincinnati. Can the Bengals move forward and finish 2021 with a winning record?
Notable Draft Picks
WR Ja’Marr Chase, OT/G Jackson Carman, DE/OLB Joseph Ossai, DE Cameron Sample, NT Tyler Shelvin, OT D’Ante Smith, K Evan McPherson
Cincinnati Bengals Acquisitions and Moves
The biggest addition to this roster will be the return of Burrow. After trading Ryan Finley, there’s no depth at quarterback. The only other QB on the roster is Brandon Allen, so Burrow’s health is going to be the determining factor on how the season goes for Cincinnati. After early struggles last year, Burrow finished with decent rookie numbers. In 10 games he threw for 2,688 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also ran in another three TDs. If you’re looking for a good player prop, Burrow has the second-best odds to win Comeback Player of the Year at +606.
Cincinnati used the fifth overall pick to reunite Burrow with LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase. The wide receiver already has proven chemistry with Burrow, notably winning the 2019 National Championship with Burrow in Burrow’s Heisman year. Chase also has the potential to be a huge upgrade from A.J. Green, who left for Arizona in free agency. The only concern is Chase’s drop issues in the preseason, including missing four of five preseason targets from Burrow. They’ll need the rookie to acclimate to the NFL game quickly.
The team made an effort to keep Burrow healthy by drafting Jackson Carman in the second round in 2021. Carman is a big, physical blocker who should also be able to open holes for running back Joe Mixon. The Bengals also added veteran tackle Riley Reiff to the offensive line. The 32-year-old still has a lot of good football left in him and he’s impressed in the preseason.
Defensively, the biggest addition was the signing of Trey Hendrickson. He had a huge year as a pass rusher with New Orleans last season and should fill the hole left when Carlos Dunlap was traded to Seattle last year. After 11 seasons with the team, defensive tackle Geno Atkins wasn’t resigned. Larry Ogunjobi was brought in to replace Atkins, but it’s a mediocre move at best.
Cincinnati Bengals 2021 NFL Schedule
Even if Burrow had stayed healthy all season, Cincinnati probably wouldn’t have finished much better than their 4-11-1 record. The Bengals have the sixth-hardest schedule overall in 2021 and the toughest out of the “last-place” teams.
Cincinnati will play two of their first three games on the road, including a tough Week 3 divisional matchup in Pittsburgh. Their Week 10 bye comes almost exactly at the halfway point of the season, but it will be a difficult end to the year. The Bengals will host Kansas City and Baltimore before their regular season finale in Cleveland.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 12 vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 19 @ Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 26 @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Thursday, Sunday 30 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 8:20 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10 vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17 @ Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24 @ Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31 @ New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7 vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21 @ Las Vegas Raiders, 4:05 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, December 5 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12 vs. San Francisco 49ers, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, December 19 @ Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26 vs. Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2 vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Week 18: Sunday, Jan. 9 @ Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Cincinnati Bengals NFL Betting Odds
The Bengals have the third-lowest regular season win total in the NFL at 6.5. In the AFC North, the Under 6.5 wins at -131 is the smart play. If you want to take a ridiculous flyer, the Bengals are +2307 to win the AFC North. If you want to take an even more ridiculous flyer, they’re +6500 to win the AFC Conference. Is it even worth mentioning that they’re +14600 to win the Super Bowl?
As mentioned above, I think Burrow has a legitimate shot to win Comeback Player of the Year, if he can stay healthy. Dak Prescott is the favourite, but if the Cowboys falter and Cincinnati surprises some teams, Burrow could walk away with the award.
Cincinnati Bengals 2021 Season Prediction
The AFC North is one of the more competitive divisions, with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland all threats to win. I think this team has improved over last season and I see Burrow putting up solid stats if he doesn’t get hurt, but they’re just not there yet. Bank on the Bengals finishing last in the AFC North with a 6-11 season.