To be fair, the Bengals have one of, if not the toughest schedule of any NFL team, and they now have a target on their backs after winning the AFC.
But if we look at the Bengals simply as what they are and not how they’ll do against a daunting schedule, there’s no question they’re one of the NFL’s best overall teams.
Peter King recognizes this.
In his latest NFL power rankings for MMQB, King has the Bengals ranked seventh overall, good for fourth-best in the AFC and first among AFC North teams. He has the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs ranked as the top three teams in the entire NFL.
In the last 27 years, only one Super Bowl loser has won the conference championship the following season—the Patriots four years ago. (Lost to Eagles in Super Bowl 52, won AFC next year, beat Rams in Super Bowl 53.) Excepting that Patriots team, the last six Super Bowl losers have won an average of 8.8 games the next year.
The Bengals were the beneficiaries of a lousy game by the top-seed Titans in the divisional round and a Patrick Mahomes pick on the first drive of OT in the AFC title game. Good for them for the transcendent season, defying all expectations, but they had some good fortune and a great kicker.
Now for the good news: This is a rising team, highly competitive, with a confident and fearless quarterback in Joe Burrow and a fiery defensive leader and good pass-rusher in Trey Hendrickson. The right side of the offensive line, trampled in the Super Bowl, is all new: center Ted Karras, guard Alex Cappa, tackle La’el Collins. The loss of tight end C.J. Uzomah will be felt, but there’s enough firepower here for the Bengals to be a top-five offense. I like Cincinnati to edge Baltimore for the division title, but a deep run will be tough with a first-place schedule—games at the Cowboys, the Saints, the Titans, the Bucs and the Patriots, and KC and Buffalo visiting the Queen City. The Bengals are a team on the rise, without question. I don’t think they can beat Buffalo this year, but in the long haul, I love their prospects to contend in the Burrow years.
So, what say you? Too high, too low, or just right for the Bengals?
Let us know in the poll below and in the comments section!