On paper, it would be hard to be optimistic for an NFL team that’s gone 6-25-1 over a two-year stretch. But when you have a very promising franchise QB and a roster full of talent when healthy, it’s easy to see why some believe the Cincinnati Bengals will make a major leap in 2021.
Case in point, CBS Sports writer Cody Benjamin included Cincinnati among his five teams poised to make a major leap this year, checking in at No. 2 behind the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
They’ve won six games in two years with Zac Taylor, but boy oh boy will Joe Burrow’s return under center give them an adrenaline boost. For the second straight offseason, the Bengals also have a ton of money to play with, meaning they can continue to surround their young quarterback with talent. Maybe it’s help up front (please). Maybe it’s another weapon to fill out an already-promising wide receiver corps. Either way, if Burrow can stay upright, Cincy should easily be bound for an improvement over 4-11-1. It helps that rivals like the Steelers could be due for regression as they battle age, cap issues and QB questions.
Yes, 6-25-1 is hard to look past, but the truth is the 2020 Bengals win at least six games (and maybe more) if Burrow starts every game. Heck, the Bengals had a real chance to win at Washington before he went down early in the second half, as he was having a very promising rookie year before tearing his ACL.
Of course, how good the 2021 Bengals can be largely rests on Burrow getting back to full health and playing every game. If that happens and the team adds impact players in the draft and free agency, I can absolutely see the Bengals winning seven games this year and setting the stage for playoff contention in the 2022 season.