Projecting how the NFL season will play out is a fool’s errand. But if you’re going to do it, you might as well be thorough in your work.
After the league-wide schedule was released last week, Pro Football Focus ran 10,000 simulations of the impending season using a combination of their own data and publicly available data.
As a result, reaching the top of the AFC North projects to be a challenging campaign once again, with the Bengals finishing in last place.
Baltimore Ravens: 10.5 (11.5, -115/-115)
Cleveland Browns: 8.0 (8.5, -110/-120)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 7.7 (9.5, +110/-140)
Cincinnati Bengals: 6.7 (5.5, -120/-110)
While 6.7 wins is lower than what most fans would hope for, that win total is the only one higher than their projected total from BetOnline.ag in the division. That number is shown to the right of PFF’s projection, along with the current over/under odds.
Vegas’ win total isn’t too promising either, but at least their odds of Cincinnati hitting the over are slightly more encouraging than the under.
6.7 wins in this study would put the Bengals as the fourth-worst team by season’s end. Only the New York Giants (6.6), Los Angeles Chargers (6.4) and Jacksonville Jaguars (6.2) came out with lower win totals.
PFF and Vegas share an important commonality: valuing quarterback play. Before he even takes a snap, it’s not hard to be more confident in Joe Burrow over the likes of Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor and Gardner Minshew II. Burrow’s consistent effectiveness, on the other hand, is less predictable considering he is a rookie starter. The numbers tell us rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle, and the team usually struggles as a result.
Whether it be six or seven wins come January, that would be a sign of needed growth for the Bengals. It won’t be enough to take the Ravens’ crown, but it would be a sign of good things to come.