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How the Bengals could go 12-5 in 2021

The positivity was certainly flowing in our schedule review with Bengals team reporter Marisa Contipelli. But not without good reason.

NFL: NOV 01 Titans at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have only won six games their first two years under coach Zac Taylor.

But don’t be surprised if the 38-year-old coach doubles his career wins this year, says team reporter Marisa Contipelli.

She joined me and John Sheeran to talk about the schedule release and make (very early) season predictions. While Sheeran foresees the team taking a big leap, he doesn’t think they’ll be a top team. He, thus, anticipates the team going 8-9.

Contipelli, meanwhile, made a strong argument for her “optimistic, realistic” prediction of 12-5. Here’s what she said:

“The way Joe Burrow was progressing last season, before having his injury, adding in Ja’Marr Chase, improving the offensive line, retooling basically the entire defense with improved linebacker play, why not? Why can’t it be us? I mean, every year there’s a team that was left out of the playoffs that made the playoffs the next year. It’s been happening on a wild stretch now.”

Contipelli is absolutely right about that. The Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, and even the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers missed the playoffs in 2019 only to bounce back with postseason appearances last year. Such a jump would be less of a surprise than the team’s stunning postseason appearance in 2011, just a year after the team went 4-12.

You can watch the entire interview below:

You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below:

Really, the key to all this positivity is Burrow having even a decent line and elevating the offense with the addition of Chase. If the team can put up 30 points regularly - which seems plausible - they will only really struggle against teams that are very balanced and can both put up a lot of points and stifle the opposition’s offense.

The Baltimore Ravens (Week 7 and Week 16), of course, have posed a major challenge in recent years. Not only because A.J. Green was not available or as effective as he was in his prime, but also because Cincinnati has no answer for Baltimore’s run game and the elusive Lamar Jackson. While Cincinnati has added defensive end Trey Hendrickson and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, that - along with still inexperienced linebackers - probably won’t be enough to stop teams like the Ravens, the Browns (Week 9 and Week 18), and the Kansas City Chiefs (Week 17). So it’s fair to say they’ll lose a few games to those talented rosters.

But other than those mismatches, really, the Bengals should be in every game. One big bonus it the decline of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 3 and Week 12), whose offensive line is in disarray and seem to be determined to let Ben Roethlisberger remain at quarterback as long as he likes. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers (Week 5) may not have Aaron Rodgers, and the Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 4), Detroit Lions (Week 6), and New York Jets (Week 8), who had a combined -542 point differential last year, should be easy wins.

It’s still early and there are a lot of things that need to go right for a twelve-win season, but there’s certainly room to join the effervescent team reporter in getting amped about next year.