That is not something most fans envisioned coming to life at the start of the season, but here we are with the Bengals having a good shot to be 3-1 by Friday.
Cincinnati has opened as strong favorites on its lone primetime game, a Thursday night matchup with the Trevor Lawrence-led Jacksonville Jaguars. They are being pegged to win by a touchdown, likely one of the biggest Week 4 spreads.
With a win over the Vikings and Steelers along with a disappointing loss to the Bears already this season, the Bengals will get the chance to take the top spot in the division with a win, that is, until the Browns and Ravens play in Week 4.
Following a terrific three-touchdown performance against the Steelers, let’s dive into how the national media is viewing the Bengals in relationship to their place among the league’s best.
ESPN — 18th - Up from 25
Joe Burrow is still feeling his way back into the offense after last season’s knee injury. In the Week 3 win over Pittsburgh, Burrow audibled to a designed QB run, something he said he didn’t know if he’d still be able to do coming into the season. His numbers should get better as the season progresses. Burrow has looked to be too aggressive at times this season, which has contributed to his four interceptions through three games. But given his strengths in decision-making and accuracy, those miscues should taper off as the campaign goes on. — Ben Baby
NFL.com — 19th - Up from 26
Entering Week 3, only one team had allowed more sacks than the Bengals. This was a terrible trend, especially coming off a 2020 season in which No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrowsuffered a ghastly knee injury due to faulty blocking. Sunday’s 24-10 win over the Steelerswas a huge step forward for the team and an offensive line that allowed zero sacks to a Steelers defense that had registered at least one QB takedown in 75 straight regular season games, an NFL record. The Steelers played without their best pass rusher in T.J. Watt, but the Bengals deserve credit for addressing their biggest concern while picking up a huge victory against a division opponent. Cincinnati can build some honest-to-goodness momentum with the winless Jaguars up next on Thursday night.
Yahoo! Sports — 19th - Up from 25
Hey, remember when Ja’Marr Chase couldn’t catch the ball and that’s all anyone wanted to talk about in August? Yeah, that might have been an overreaction. He has four touchdowns already. The Bengals can go to 3-1 with a win over the Jaguars, which is a really fun spot for Cincinnati to be in.
The Ringer — 18th
Bleacher Report — 18th - Up from 24 (below is an excerpt)
For the first time under head coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals will head into the month of October above .500. That in and of itself is something of an achievement for the long-suffering franchise. Doing so by beating the rival Steelers (a team that has owned said rivalry in recent years) handily is another matter altogether.
Washington Post — 18th - Up from 24
Remember those dropped-pass issues for rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase during the preseason? No one else does, either. Chase has four TD catches in three games, and he and second-year QB Joe Burrow have the Bengals resembling a competent team.
Pro Football Network — 18th (below is an excerpt)
It’ll be impossible to trust the Bengals on a weekly basis because their patchwork offensive line always has the potential to get Joe Burrow killed. But this is also a team that can easily play spoiler against better clubs. Cincinnati isn’t short on offensive playmakers, and their quarterback isn’t afraid to make plays.
Sporting News — 18th - Up from 23
How about Joe Burrow to Ja”Marr Chase? How about that improved defense? The Bengals have plenty of potential as a budding young team that will continue to surprise in big spots before true contention in 2022.
NBC Sports — 16th
Ja’Marr Chase is the youngest player in NFL history with four or more receiving touchdowns in his first three games. Pretty good for a guy who can’t catch, eh?
Making this even sweeter was the Steelers fell into the 20s in all but one of these rankings, the lowest being 24th, after being in the top 10 prior to the Steel City beatdown. The Bengals are also obviously ahead of their division rivals in every ranking.