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NFL world still sleeping on the Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals’ success rivals that of the 2003-2004 Patriots

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
Joe Burrow
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Wake up, NFL world. It’s well past time to stop underestimating these Cincinnati Bengals.

In an article that recently appeared on ESPN, Kyle Soppe compared the Bengals to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls of the 1990s and the New England Patriots dynasty of the early 2000s. So far, the decade of the 2020s belongs to Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals.

One look at how the Bengals have performed against the betting spread is enough to validate the point. Cincinnati’s latest victory up in Foxborough on Christmas Eve left it at 20-3 against the spread over its last 23 games. By comparison, the Patriots, who put together a 22-1 mark beginning with Week 2 of the 2003 season, were only 18-3-2 against the spread during that time.

The reason for the Bengals’ success? Quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow posted a passer rating of 101.0 during his Super Bowl run last year, with a yards per completion of 11.4 and a passing touchdown rate was 5.9%.

Tom Brady, on the other hand, managed a passer rating of 100.5 as he guided the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 2003. His yards per completion was 11.8, and his passing touchdown rate was 4.9%.

This is not to say that the Bengals are a dynasty worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the Patriots, at least not yet. And it is not to say that Burrow is the next Tom Brady. But the comparisons are impressive, to say the least.

Beginning in 2003, New England had 16 straight times in which it had a healthy Brady, while finishing no better than fourth in the three seasons before he took over. Burrow, meanwhile, guided Cincinnati to a division title and a berth in the Super Bowl last year, and the Bengals are in position to repeat as division champs again this season. Cincinnati finished fourth in the three seasons which preceded last year’s Super Bowl run.

Brady and the Patriots went on to win the 2004 Super Bowl, as well, by defeating the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles and Donovan McNabb, a quarterback with striking similarities to this year’s Eagles’ signal caller, Jalen Hurts.

According to Kyle Soppe, Cincinnati is no longer just a nice story, it is THE STORY. That remains to be seen. A Super Bowl victory would go a long way toward validating that claim. And it all starts with Buffalo on Monday night.

“Buffalo is the team in front of us,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “They’re the biggest obstacle we’ve got to get to where we need to go and so our focus is going to be one hundred percent on Buffalo.”

Time will tell.