Leading up to their lone primetime game, the pressure came roaring in on the Joe Burrow-led Cincinnati Bengals as the team was also honoring many franchise legends in their inaugural Ring of Honor ceremony.
During that halftime event, the Bengals were down 14-0, having had little offense to that point. Even McPherson had “missed” a field goal, and Burrow really didn’t get much going. However, that quickly changed after halftime.
The Bengals eventually won 24-21 after Burrow checked into the game-winning screen to tight end C.J. Uzomah. It ended as one of Burrow’s best performances of the season. Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, and Ja’Marr Chase also had big games under the bright lights.
Now 3-1, the team bounced higher in many of the national media’s power rankings. Let’s dive into where they’ve consistently been ranked following their Thursday Night Football history.
ESPN — No. 16 - Up from 18
Why it’s a surprise: The Bengals have struggled to field a quality defense in coordinator Lou Anarumo’s first two seasons. However, this year the Bengals are among the best in the NFL through the first four games. Cincinnati ranks fifth in yards per play allowed and seventh in points per drive allowed. Granted, the opposing offenses haven’t been great, but the improvement in Anarumo’s unit has been very notable. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who signed a $60 million deal with the team in the offseason, is second in the NFL in pass rush first pressures, according to ESPN Stats & Information. — Ben Baby
NFL.com — No. 15 - Up from 19
The Bengals have a share of first place in the AFC North, and Joe Burrow very much looks like The Franchise. The second-year quarterback picked apart the Jaguars in a 24-21 win, showing poise and presence as he led the Bengals to four consecutive scoring drives in the second half of a comeback victory. Burrow is averaging 9.2 yards per attempt (third in the NFL among qualified passers), and he’s getting much better protection: Cincinnati has allowed just one sack in the past two weeks after surrendering 10 in the season’s first two games. If the Bengals keep their young star upright, something special could be brewing in the Queen City.
CBS Sports — No. 13 - Up from 17
Is their 3-1 record legitimate? They are improved, but we will know how much improved this week against the Packers at home.
Sports Illustrated — No. 24
It’s been fun to watch Joe Burrow’s confidence take hold at the NFL level, especially after his rookie season was cut short by his knee injury. His throw to C.J. Uzomah to set up the game-winning field goal, while being hit by a zero-blitzer, reinforced his fearlessness.
USA Today — No. 14 - Up from 17
Looks who’s atop the AFC North. They might even stay there for a minute if QB Joe Burrow continues to blossom in the aftermath of his 2020 knee injury.
Yahoo! Sports — No. 17 - Up from 19
Not all wins will be pretty and last Thursday night’s was pretty uninspiring. But it was a win, and those haven’t been plentiful in Cincinnati recently. Maybe they should have beaten a bad Jacksonville team more soundly, but give a young team credit for finding a way to come back and win.
The Ringer — No. 16 (ranked as a “contender”)
NBC Sports — No. 15
Joe Burrow is the best quarterback in the AFC North. Is that enough to get Cincy to the playoffs?