The Cincinnati Bengals entered hostile territory in Baltimore as touchdown underdogs. They left with a 24-point win and a renewed spirit.
That spirit is one that’s being felt around national media. The Bengals aren’t quite AFC North favorites, but their convincing 5-2 record and 2-0 record in the division, both of which were road games, is helpful, as is the absolute eruption of rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
The rookie wideout went for over 200 yards and a touchdown against one of the division’s elite cornerbacks, Marlon Humphrey. Chase is already one of the NFL’s best receivers, and he should only continue to improve.
We should also mention how Joe Burrow is the only player in the NFL with multiple touchdowns in every game this season. He’s been on another level while elevating the entire offense.
The defense, holding Baltimore to 17 and having limited most other teams, has also been elite. With that in mind, let’s dive into where national media is placing the Bengals after their 5-2 start.
ESPN — No. 7 - Up from No. 11
Remember when Chase’s drops created some questions about how the fifth overall pick would fare as a rookie? Well, I’d like not to. Because any reservations about Chase’s play in the offseason have been blasted to Neptune. Chase is putting up absurd numbers and, along with QB Joe Burrow, has transformed Cincinnati’s offense into something incredibly potent. Chase is second in the NFL in receiving yards, trailing only the Rams’ Cooper Kupp. He has eight receptions of 30 or more yards, the most in the NFL. He is on pace to break the Bengals’ record for most receiving yards in a season (1,440 by Chad Johnson, 2007). Sheesh. — Ben Baby
NFL.com — No. 7 - Up from No. 11
That right there was a Statement Win™. The Bengals rolled into Baltimore and sent thousands of once-confident Ravens fans at M&T Bank Stadium streaming to the exits by the fourth quarter of a 41-17 triumph that makes us reconsider everything in the AFC North. Cincinnati has moved into a tie with Baltimore atop the division. and none of this feels unsustainable, with Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase producing at historic levels together. From the NFL Research team: Chase (35/754/6) has the most receiving yards by any player through his first seven career games in NFL history. It’s still not too late to delete your ”They should have taken Penei Sewell!” takes on social media. Scrub away! Save your Smart Football Internet Person reputation!
The Ringer — No. 8
USA Today — No. 8 - Up from No. 13
All the chatter about Cincinnati’s (current) No. 1 seed and rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase’s record-setting start is warranted. But props to TE C.J. Uzomah, who’s rebounded from last year’s torn Achilles and has already hauled in a career-best five TDs.
Yahoo! Sports — No. 7 - Up from No. 12
A Bengals’ upset at Baltimore wouldn’t have been too crazy. A 24-point win was not expected by anyone. Suddenly the Bengals are a 5-2 team with an emphatic win over the Ravens on the road. They’re looking like a playoff team and they might be the best bet to win the AFC North too.
Sports Illustrated — No. 8
Okay, Cincinnati. You have our attention. Beating the Ravens by almost 30 points, while watching Joe Burrow carve up a beautifully schemed defense by air mailing passes to his first-round wide receiver opened our eyes. The Jets and vulnerable Browns are next before the bye week, which means life for Bengals fans gets interesting for the first time since the Ochocinco era.
Sporting News — No. 8 - Up from No. 10
The Bengals are the biggest surprise riser of the season and are the new favorites in the tough AFC North. The other teams are battling issues that they aren’t. Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase is the new best combination in the game, but how about Trey Hendrickson and the revamped defense?
NBC Sports — No. 10 - Up from No. 14
Joe Burrow and the Bengals made a big-time statement Sunday with a 41-17 victory over the Ravens in Baltimore. With its second straight win, Cincinnati now owns the top spot in the AFC North.