The Cincinnati Bengals missed the playoffs this year. They were one of 18 teams to miss the postseason, which may beg the question, who is the most likely of those 18 teams to make the playoffs next year? Well if you ask The Athletic’s Mike Jones, the most likely team to punch their ticket to the playoffs is Cincinnati.
They’ll experience some changes, especially on offense, with wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd both set to become free agents. But the Bengals have a strong core, as their narrow miss of the playoffs despite Joe Burrow’s absence reflects. Burrow should bounce back, and with him should return Cincinnati’s hopes for contention.
The way the Bengals ended the 2023 season shows that this is a championship-caliber team for reasons beyond just having Burrow at the helm. There is no doubt that we will see some real changes coming this offseason, but you can almost guarantee the Burrow will be flanked by Ja’Marr Chase and Higgins. The question is whether that will be Higgins playing on a franchise tag or a contract extension.
We should also see a secondary that is a bit more seasoned after fielding a ton of young players most of the season. The hope is that experience will prove invaluable in their growth going into next season to help get this unit back to where it was in 2021 and 2022.
The top five is rounded out with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, and Seattle Seahawks. The Bengals are the only one of those teams to have a deep playoff run in the past few seasons.
The biggest thing that will need to change is the 1-5 record against the AFC North with the only win coming against a Cleveland Brown team resting their starters. A completely healthy Burrow also probably helps that, but this team is set up too well to just bank on that to fix everything.
This is a very important offseason. This team expects to make the playoffs. It is more of maximizing the Burrow window of possibly winning a Super Bowl. That is the list the Bengals want to be at the top of.