A lot changed for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
They got their first win in the division, and it was over a team that has illogically bullied them since the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow: the Cleveland Browns.
But the Week 18 win was a meaningless game, which is why everything we learned must be conditioned.
So here are three things we may have learned from the Bengals’ 31-14 win over the Browns:
Jake Browning will be starting somewhere eventually
The QB’s performance against the Steelers was ugly. Like, “this guy is clearly a backup or worse” kind of ugly.
But then there are games like the one against the Browns, where he had some absolutely elite throws.
As Browning himself implied, that potential should be enough to land him a starting job in the NFL.
No quarterback is perfect. One of the top five passers, Josh Allen, is known for his splashy plays, both good and bad, and the Buffalo Bills are more than happy to live with that.
With more experience, Browning will really come to understand his limitations but still be able to move the ball, which is more than a lot of other quarterbacks can do.
Andrei Iosivas is going to be featured heavily in the offense in 2024
Yes, there was nothing to play for, so naturally the rookies will get more opportunities.
But Zac Taylor had his starters out there, and it was the Princeton product who ended up with two touchdown receptions. He had seven targets, second only to his eight targets in a big showdown with the Steelers in Week 16.
In other words, his targets have been going up, and he’s given coaches no reason to think he won’t improve with more opportunities.
Joe Mixon has a lot left in the tank
The last game of the season against a tough team(’s backups, but still), the veteran running back demonstrated burst and fight on his way to his best performance of the year, 111 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries, plus a receiving touchdown.
Let us never forget that, last year, Mixon also had his best game of the season late, against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round.
We’ll never quite know what Mixon’s potential was on account of the poor run blocking he’s had to live with for almost all of his career. But the fact that he can always dig deep and pull out a monster game when teams are banged up and the weather is cold is a good sign for a team looking to make another deep run next year.