2021 Record: 10-7 4th AFC North
2022 Win Total: 9.5 Wins
Over 9.5 -135
Under 9.5 +105
Yards Per play: 10th 5.7
Yards per pass attempt: 10th 5.7
Offensive QB Sack percentage: 31st 9.59%
Yards per run: 26th 4.0
3rd down conversion rate: 15th 40.08%
Turnover Margin: 9th +0.3
Yards Per Play allowed: 21st 5.6
Yards per pass attempt allowed: 16th 6.7
Yards allowed per rush: 17th 4.4
Defensive QB sack rate: 15th 6.22%
Notable losses: CJ Uzomah TE
Notable additions: Hayden Hurst TE, Ted Karras C, La’el Collins RT, Alex Cappa RG
1st Round Draft Pick(s): Daxton Hill, Safety Michigan
Strength of schedule: 26th (1 Easiest, 32 Hardest)
The Bengals were the Cinderella story of the NFL in 2021. 2nd year emerging star Joe Burrow somehow led a team from worst in the league to a Super Bowl appearance in two years. He also did that with one of the worst pass blocking offensive lines in the league. The Bengals played in a lot of close games throughout the season and of the 22 games they played including the playoffs, 13 were decided by seven points or less. The Bengals provided hope for every NFL fan base out there that any team is capable of reaching the Super Bowl given the right player additions.
The Bengals did a great job keeping the offense together in the offseason. They retain the NFLs best wide receiver trio in Jamar Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins. They also return all 3 running backs from last season in Joe Mixon, Smaje Perine, and Chris Evans. They did lose tight end CJ Uzomah in the offseason but replaced him with a capable pass catcher in Hayden Hurst. Where the Bengals upgraded was on the offensive line. For a unit that was 2nd to last in QB sack percentage, any additions would provide much needed help. Center Ted Karras enters with 6 seasons of experience, along with right guard Alex Cappa who is in his 4th year playing in the NFL. The Bengals also added right tackle La’el Collins who played for six years with the Cowboys. Hopefully the experience the right side of the line will have will make up for the lack of experience on the left side of the line. Left tackle Jonah Williams and left guard Jackson Carman are only in their 3rd and 2nd seasons in the NFL respectively. I expect the offensive line to at least improve and would think they get closer to below average rather than bottom of the barrel. As a whole I think the Bengals offense should play slightly better than last year.
The Bengals used five of their six draft picks on defensive players. What’s even more eye opening is that half of their draft picks were used on safeties! Starting on the defensive line the Bengals have plenty of capable pass rushers. Trey Hendrickson, BJ Hill, and Sam Hubbard combined for 27 sacks last season. At linebacker the Bengals have multiple players who are at least in their 3rd season with the Bengals. Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, and Akeem Davis-Gaither all will be playing in their 3rd or more years with the team. Hopefully between the defensive line and linebackers, the Bengals should be able to improve their yards per play and yards per rush which was average at best. In the secondary things are a little muddy. The Bengals have Eli Apple, Tre Flowers, and Chidobe Awuzie as their projected starters. Eli Apple is on his 4th in the last six seasons. Awuzie and Flowers are better options, but behind that the Bengals will have several rookies in the fold. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will have to focus on either preparing the rookies for snaps, or putting these veterans in better positions to win.
The Bengals strength of schedule is going to be difficult to overcome especially late in the season. These are the final six games of their season: Chiefs, Browns, Bucs-away, Patriots-away, Bills, Ravens. If Deshaun Watson is able to play, every one of those games will be a challenge for the Bengals. I think the Bengals likely finish right around this win total so this won’t be a bet for me but for the purposes of making a pick I’ll take over 9.5 wins.