Can the Cincinnati Bengals repeat last year’s success? History says it’s not possible

Can Joe Burrow and the Bengals do it again?  Don't count on it.

Can Joe Burrow and the Bengals do it again? Don’t count on it.
Picture: AP

The Cincinnati Bengals were every analyst’s nightmare last season. No one expected them to win the AFC North. They did. No one expected them to make it to the Super Bowl. They did. Now, in 2022, everyone is expecting the same result, maybe not another Super Bowl, but at least 10 wins and a playoff berth.

Everyone but me.

I’m going against the grain. Have I been burned by Bengalis before? Totally true, but just like when I jumped into a relationship after the biggest heartbreak of my life, I was ready to do it all over again!

I am not going to sit here and say that the Bengals are a worse team now than they were at the end of last season. Not so. Sure, they lost a BILLION Riley Reiff and TE CJ Uzomahbut the addition of lineman Alex Cappa, LOTSa’el Collins, BILLIONed Karras, as well as TE Hayden Hurst goes beyond those losses. That’s not where I have a problem. My problem lies in believing that Bengalis can get back the magic they had last year. The Bengals’ unlikely run to the Super Bowl is fueled by last-minute games, players with years of careers and luck.

Just too many question marks. First, do we think Trey Hendrickson will get at least half a bag again for 11 consecutive games, a feat only achieved another two times (in a single season) since turn of the century? Do we really think that Chidobe Awuzie will become top scorer like him again last season after 2018, 19 and 20 that his ceiling is above usable? Are we sure the Bengals will be able to secure a first place fixture in a much-improved AFC tournament?

Let’s talk about that for a second. Let’s think about how many teams in the AFC are either really good, coached really well, or significantly improved this season. The chiefs are good. Bengali play them this year. The Titans have some question marks, but they’re pretty well trained. Team Bengal will play Tennessee this year. Dolphins were better. Healthy crow. The Browns will get better after Watson serves his suspension. Bills are pretty good.

Let’s say the Bengals make it to the knockout round. They may be facing the Charger. They are better than last year. Broncos improved. Raiders improved. Colts improved. Every decent team in the AFC gets better, so the addition of Collins, Cappa and Karras of the Bengals really isn’t as big of a step forward as one might think. I think they are one of the less progressive candidates in the AFC.

The Bengals attack last year was very good, but in football you always have to develop. After a long study of the Bengals’ tapes, teams will make adjustments if the Bengals coaching staff doesn’t start to breathe new life into their play. Is Zac Taylor really the type of coach? The type that can create new dynamic levels while stretching his personnel limit? I doubt it, because explosively like last year’s Bengals offense, it’s clear that Taylor is holding them back. Many fans believe that Burrow must win despite Taylor instead of Taylor working to make Burrow better. Taylor’s call in the knockout round is less than excellent and fans already know. Now the Bengals don’t surprise anyone, training will become more important than anything and Taylor hasn’t shown enough to secure my trust.

The connection between Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase was magical last year. It’s explosive, exciting, and most of all makes everyone who’s ever said Chase’s pre-season tears will be a problem for the regular season (myself included) have their heads between their legs and waddled away from the adult table at Thanksgiving in shame. However, looking back at some of the captures from last year, I find it hard to imagine a world where similar magic is caught in Y.ear 2. Much of the explosiveness between the two comes from deep passes. I doubt that there is anyone better than Chase in the league along the way. However, Burrow’s (in) consistency on deep passes was always a hot topic when discussing the former No. 1 total pick… until last year. All those worries seem to disappear because Chase is so good at bringing those deep rides down. Maybe that’s a sign of what’s to come, but maybe Burrow will regress in that department and suddenly Chase couldn’t take down that many people. I don’t think it’s an unwarranted concern. I’m not saying that will happen, but it’s a “what if” that lingers in my mind when trying to evaluate this Bengals team.

In the end, I know it’s been said and observed a million times, but just because the Bengals attended the Super Bowl last year doesn’t mean they’re just one or two away from winning all of them. Most of the time, the odds of appearing in the Super Bowl are as high as one team goes. Do you know anyone else who thinks they’re only a yard or two away from lifting the Lombardi Cup? Atlanta Falcons 2016, Carolina Panthers 2015, Arizona Cardinals 2008, Dan Marino – you get the idea. The history of teams losing the Super Bowl and then having a worse run the following season is well-documented.

Just look at the recent losses in the Super Bowl. In 2020, NFC 2019 champion San Francisco 49ers missed the playoffs completely. The Rams in 2019 missed out on the knockout stages. 2018 Eagles made it to the knockout round, only to win one match because double doink and was quickly released by the Saints. The 2017 Falcons finished third in their squad, and lost to Nick Foles in the squad. Panthers 2016 takes place on October 6. The 2015 Seahawks had their worst season (on record) in the Russell Wilson era up to that point. The 2014 Broncos saw Peyton Manning lose to the man who replaced him in Indianapolis. In 2013 the 49ers were broken after they went behind Richard Sherman with a sorry recipients like Michael Crabtree. You get the idea. Most of the time, the Super Bowl loss is the furthest loss the team has experienced in several years.

I don’t think this is a bad team, but are they really the best team in AFC? No. Last year, they made it through to the knockout round. They would be out of luck in a similar situation this time.

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