If wishes were horses, pigs would fly.
Or, to put it another one, no one knows what to expect from the upcoming 2021 NFL season.
But that doesn’t stop the predictions from flying, or the wishes of the fans from taking wing.
It is possible that the Cincinnati Bengals will have one of the top offenses in the NFL in 2021. Just ask NFL.com, who sees the Bengals knocking on the door of the top 10, depending on how the offensive line performs.
Or PSX, which sees Cincinnati putting together one of the league’s top passing outfits after re-uniting former LSU teammates in quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Put those two together with fellow wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd and running back Joe Mixon, and the league promises to be among the NFL’s best.
Of course, not everyone sees it that one. In fact, most publications expect another poor season from the Bengals, with some even expecting Cincinnati to once again pick in the top 5 of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Even Pro Football Focus, who has given the last two Bengals’ rookie classes high marks, has the Bengals slotted at No. 27 in its latest Power Rankings, behind such teams as the Viking, Chargers, Panthers and Giants and ahead of only the Jets, Jaguars, Eagles, Texans and Lions.
One look at PFF’s player rankings will give you a pretty good idea of why the expectations are so low. And it all starts with the quarterback.
PFF, on the other hand, lists Burrow at No. 18 in its quarterback rankings, behind such names as Lamar Jackson (8), Matt Ryan (9), Baker Mayfield (10), Ryan Tannehill (12), Derek Carr (13), Kirk Cousins (14), Just Herbert (15) and Ben Roethlisberger (16).
Not too long ago, Patriots coach Bill Belichick referred to Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon as probably “the best back in the league. He runs so hard and is so hard to tackle.”
Now, after Mixon missed the last 10 games of the 2020 season with a foot injury, PFF has him ranked at No. 14, behind both Nick Chubb (4) and Kareem Hunt (10) in Cleveland, Seattle’s Chris Carson (8), the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs (9), Austin Ekeler (11) of the Chargers and Chicago’s David Montgomery (13).
But the real slap in the face comes with PFF’s wide receiver rankings, where only one Bengal cracked the top 32. Barely. Tyler Boyd came in at No. 32, while Tampa Bay’s Antonio Brown was ranked No. 24, despite making only 45 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Denver’s Courtland Sutton (28), who missed nearly all of 2020 with a torn ACL, and San Francisco’s Deebo Samuels (31), who started only five games in 2020 and caught just 33 passes for 391 yards and a touchdown, were both slotted ahead of Boyd. Neither Tee Higgins nor Ja’Marr Chase made the list.
Malcolm X once said that “the future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” The Bengals, to a man, believe that they have prepared for success. Others see continued futility. Only time will tell who is correct.