The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
No team was more of a Cinderella in 2021 than the Cincinnati Bengals. After finishing with a middling record of 4-11-1 and seeing franchise quarterback Joe Burrow crumble mid-season, the Bengals and Burrow bounced back in a huge way in 2021. The team finished 10-7, but that was good enough to go from worst to first in the AFC North. Once in the Playoffs, the Bengals just kept on going. They beat the Raiders and Titans to make the AFC Championship Game, then topped the Kansas City Chiefs to advance to the Super Bowl. While the Bengals came up short in the big game against the Rams, it was quite a run for a franchise that had been a laughing stock for several years.
The Bengals focused a good deal on an area of weakness—the offensive line. The team snagged Bucs’ guard Alex Cappa and Dallas tackle La’el Collins. In addition, the team snagged safeties Daxton Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt in the draft to bolster the defense. Among skill position players, the Bengals saw veteran tight end C.J. Uzomah leave and sign with the New York Jets. In his place, they signed veteran Hayden Hurst, who began with the Ravens before playing the past few seasons with the Falcons. Hurst caught 56 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns in 2020 on 88 targets. He gives Burrow a nice potential weapon.
The Bengals have a good offense and did little to alter that this off-season. Burrow finished as QB8 in 2021. I think he can do even better in 2022, and I like his potential to be a Top 5 option. I also like his backfield mate, Joe Mixon. Mixon had more than 1,500 combined yards and 16 touchdowns in 2021. With a better line, he could well maintain his RB4 finish. I like him as an RB1.
The receiving game also yields plenty of fruit for the Bengals. Hurst has some appeal as a TE2. Meanwhile, the Bengals run out a strong trio of receivers in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Chase was WR5 while Higgins was WR24 in 2021. I suspect Chase remains a Top 10 receiver and Higgins could take a step forward, but his ADP of WR12 is a bit rich. I like him more as a WR2. Boyd is often the forgotten man. He finished as WR31 in 2021 and is going criminally low at WR51 right now. I suspect he outperforms that and might be the best value of the Bengals’ receivers.
The glass slipper fit Cinderella last year but couldn’t carry her over the finish line. That magical ending has people forgetting the Bengals weren’t a dominant team most of 2021. I don’t think they’ll be dominant in 2022, either. They should be good, and will likely finish over .500 and in the thick of the playoff race, whether it be as the AFC North Champ or a Wild Card.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.