Cincinnati Bengals 2022 Season Preview and Win Total Prediction

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Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on prior to Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP.

The Cincinnati Bengals ended a 30-season drought without a playoff win by going all the way to the Super Bowl where they fell at the very end to the Los Angeles Rams, 23-20. It was one of the more surprising playoff runs in NFL history after head coach Zac Taylor turned a 6-25-1 start to his career with a 13-8 record in 2021 including the playoffs.

But the young players get plenty of credit for the quick turnaround, led by the dominant passing combination of college teammates Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. After winning a championship together at LSU in 2019, the duo nearly did the same in their first year together in the NFL with incredible seasons.

With the focus on providing Burrow with a better offensive line, the Bengals are bringing back a familiar squad to try to repeat last year’s success. But after going 10-7 in an AFC that could have gone multiple ways last year, many of the top-rated sportsbooks have the Bengals with an Over/Under of 10 wins.

That puts the Bengals in line with five other AFC teams, so this team is hardly the favorite to emerge from the AFC again. But is that fair?

The Notable Changes for 2022

The Bengals wasted no time fixing the biggest weakness on their team, so we also will jump right into the most important change for 2022.

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Is a Super Bowl Win as Simple as a Better Offensive Line?

There are many ways to build an adequate offensive line in the NFL, but the Bengals have not done so in several years. The good news is significant change can be achieved in one offseason, especially if you use free agency instead of the draft.

Just last year, the Chiefs came out of their ugly Super Bowl loss against Tampa Bay with offensive line changes as their focal point. They made the necessary moves and the results were a little better, but then they were undone by Cincinnati’s three-man rush in the second half of the AFC Championship Game. Better luck next year.

The offensive line is rarely ever the final missing piece to a championship, but there is no denying the Bengals had work to do there.

Protecting Burrow

Joe Burrow suffered 70 sacks in 20 starts last year, which is too many. However, his overall pressure rate was still better than 13 other quarterbacks in 2021 according to Pro Football Reference, so he was not always under siege.

The Bengals were a big-play offense, so he would sometimes hold the ball too long to try to hit the big play. But after the Bengals made moves in free agency, the offensive line should be better this year.

The New Guys

Cincinnati added three new starters who come from teams that were successful and had good coaching along the line.

  • Center Ted Karras is 29 and has been a starter with the Patriots and Dolphins.
  • Right guard Alex Cappa was a three-year starter for Tampa Bay’s prolific passing game where he protected Tom Brady the last two seasons while Bruce Arians’s offense pushed the ball downfield.
  • Right tackle La’el Collins never maximized his potential with Dallas, but he has made 71 starts in his career and was part of some of the best offenses in the league.

Also, left guard Jackson Carman was only a rookie last year and should see improvement in 2022. If not, then he may be the next piece replaced next offseason. But for now, this is a team with a plan to protect its most valuable asset.

A Few Other Moves

The Bengals made a few other non-offensive line transactions, but they are the kind of moves that are unlikely to move the needle on where this team finishes in 2022.

One such move is replacing departed tight end C.J. Uzomah with Hayden Hurst, a disappointing first-round pick in 2018 who should be able to serve as a fourth or fifth option in the passing game.

The Bengals also lost defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to the Steelers. The one-year rental had his best NFL season for the Bengals last year with 7.0 sacks and he was third on the team with 24 pressures. But the Bengals still have B.J. Hill and drafted Zach Carter in the third round.

Cincinnati’s revamped secondary, built through free agency, served well in the Super Bowl run last year, but corner Eli Apple certainly was a weak link in the playoffs.

NFL Draft Moves

The Bengals look to be preparing for a different future after taking safety Daxton Hill (Michigan) in the first round and corner Cam Taylor-Britt (Nebraska) in the second round. But neither has to be a starter in 2022.

2022 Bengals Prediction

There is an argument that if the Bengals can make the playoffs five years in a row (2011-15) with Andy Dalton at quarterback, then why not have another run with Burrow? First, you have to acknowledge that the Bengals did overachieve in 2021.

Out of the 84 teams to reach the Super Bowl since 1981, the 2021 Bengals are the only team to not rank in the top 16 on offense or defense in Football Outsiders’ DVOA efficiency metric. The Bengals finished 18th in offensive DVOA and 19th in defensive DVOA.

The AFC has only gotten deeper and more competitive in the offseason after spreading the talent around with Russell Wilson (Broncos), Matt Ryan (Colts), Davante Adams (Raiders), Tyreek Hill (Dolphins), and Khalil Mack (Chargers). The Bengals are bringing a better offensive line, but what other positions improved significantly?

Why Could the Bengals Miss the Playoffs?

If you told a Cincinnati fan that the team would miss the playoffs in 1989 after nearly winning a Super Bowl against the 49ers, they would have thought you were crazy then too. But the 1989 Bengals finished 8-8 and did miss the playoffs after having the best season in franchise history.

It happens quite a bit as even the 2019 Rams and 2020 49ers recently missed the playoffs after Super Bowl losses. The 2015 Panthers went from a 15-1 season, Cam Newton MVP award, and a tough Super Bowl loss to a 6-10 finish in 2016.

I am not confident the Bengals are missing the playoffs in 2022 as much as I am thinking the team will struggle to go over 10.5 wins for your NFL picks. The schedule does not look to be in their favor.

Tough Schedule Awaits

The Bengals finished 4-2 in division games last year due to surprising sweeps of the Steelers and Ravens. Baltimore should especially be a tougher foe this year, and it is hard to see the Bengals winning four games again in the division alone.

The team also has challenging games in Dallas, Tennessee, and it is hard to imagine they will beat Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs for a third-straight meeting.

But the real danger point may be the final four games when the Bengals have to go on the road to play the Buccaneers and Patriots before hosting the Bills and Ravens. That could make it hard for the Bengals to be surging at the right time when the playoffs come around.

2022 Bengals Wins: Under 10 Wins (-130) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

On the Last Season of “The Bengals”: Moving on Up

While hindsight is a good friend to any NFL analyst, it is safe to say that there’s no way the Bengals would have been in the Super Bowl last season if they drafted offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the No. 5 pick instead of wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

How It All Started

Some still thought it was a bold move at the time with the Bengals in desperate need of improved offensive line play after Joe Burrow was seriously injured in his rookie season. But fixing an offensive line takes more than one top-five pick, and with the right quarterback in place, a top-end receiver is going to elevate the offense more than a top-end tackle.

Many elite quarterbacks have thrived with mediocre to even poor tackle play for significant stretches of their careers.

The chance to reunite Burrow with his dominant college receiver was too hard to pass up, and it paid off almost immediately with Chase catching touchdowns in each of his first three games. The Bengals even won by 2 touchdowns in Pittsburgh, which is unheard of for this team in the last 30 years.

The Bengals played their first national game of the season against the Jaguars in Week 4. Burrow led the first fourth-quarter comeback win of his career to get the Bengals off to a 3-1 start going into October.

Weeks 5-14: Shock and Awe

In Week 5, the Bengals played a dramatic game with the Green Bay Packers, the eventual No. 1 seed in the NFC. Both teams kept failing on game-winning field goals in overtime until the Packers finally hit one. But the Bengals put up a good fight against an elite opponent.

It was in Week 7 when the Bengals made a real name for themselves with a 41-17 rout in Baltimore despite entering as a 6.5-point underdog. Burrow passed for 416 yards and only took one sack. Chase had almost half of his yards with 201 and a long touchdown to put the exclamation point on the win.

But the excitement was short-lived as the Bengals blew a 31-20 lead halfway through the fourth quarter against the Jets despite the fact they were starting unknown quarterback Mike White, who shredded the defense for 405 yards in a stunning 34-31 upset.

Inconsistent play stuck with the Bengals for weeks. They pulled away late against the Raiders before destroying the Steelers 41-10 in a sweep, but they also lost badly to the Browns (41-16) and Chargers (41-22) at home.

Similar to the Green Bay game, the Bengals fell in overtime, 26-23, against the 49ers in Week 14. At that point, the Bengals were only a 7-6 team and not on the radar as a legit contender for the Super Bowl yet. However, the starters would not lose another game until the Super Bowl.

The Playoff Push

  • Week 16: Bengals vs. Ravens

After beating Denver in a low-scoring game, the Bengals once again exploited Baltimore’s passing defense despite defensive coordinator “Wink” Martindale saying he did not need to double team Chase and that there isn’t a gold jacket ready for Burrow. Well, if you keep allowing these two to put up these numbers every year, it won’t take long for them to lock up Canton busts.

Burrow passed for 525 yards and 4 touchdowns in the game. Had it not been a 41-21 blowout, he may have had a shot at taking down the longstanding record of 554 yards in a game. That spectacular performance seemed to put the Bengals in a good rhythm for the rest of the season.

  • Week 17: Bengals vs. Chiefs

After falling behind by 14 points three times against Kansas City, the Bengals fought back and won 34-31 on a last-second field goal. Chase had one of the greatest receiving games in NFL history with 11 catches for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. He even caught a 30-yard pass on third-and-27 on the game-winning drive.

The Bengals rested starters in Week 18, a meaningless 21-16 loss to finish 10-7. But the Bengals won the AFC North and had a good chance to finally win its first playoff game since the 1990 season.

  • Chase finished with 1,455 yards, and 13 touchdowns, and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.
  • Burrow led the NFL with 70.4% completions and 8.9 yards per attempt.
  • With Joe Mixon rushing for 1,205 yards and Tee Higgins having 1,091 yards, the 2021 Bengals are the only offense in NFL history with a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers all 25 years old or younger.

Wild Card vs. Raiders

The Bengals started their playoff run with an overblown controversy about an early blown whistle on a weird play before halftime. The Bengals turned that into a touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd, but the only mistake on the play was by the official.

Burrow threw a good, legal pass, and Boyd was wide open going up for the catch at the time the whistle inadvertently blew. It’s just sour grapes for the Raiders.

Las Vegas had a chance to tie or win the game at the end, but Derek Carr’s fourth-down pass was intercepted in the final seconds to give the Bengals the 26-19 win, finally ending the playoff drought.

Divisional Round vs. Titans

The Bengals were underdogs against top-seeded Tennessee, and they were searching their first road playoff win in franchise history. The Titans played a poor game despite having their offensive players healthy, and Ryan Tannehill in particular was terrible with 3 interceptions.

He saved his worst for last, forcing a pass at midfield in the final minute of a tied game. It was tipped and intercepted, and Burrow hit one pass to Chase to set up a 52-yard game-winning field goal. Evan McPherson had a fantastic postseason and drilled it for the stunning 19-16 win.

What made it so stunning was that Burrow took 9 sacks and the Bengals still won. Teams who score under 20 points and take 9 sacks are 2-126-2 (.023) since 1960, but the Bengals now have the only playoff win under those circumstances.

The Huge Comeback vs. Chiefs

If the Bengals learned anything from their Week 17 comeback win against Kansas City, it was to not panic against this team. But things looked dire in the AFC Championship Game when the Chiefs took a 21-3 lead with the offense looking unstoppable. But Samaje Perine was able to create a 41-yard touchdown, and the Chiefs botched their drive before halftime and came away with no points.

By the end of the third quarter, the Bengals tied the game and Burrow was starting to use his feet to his advantage. He only took one sack in this game. Meanwhile, the Bengals stopped the Chiefs cold and forced the worst half of Patrick Mahomes’s career by largely going to a three-man rush.

Mahomes kept holding onto the ball with eight defenders in coverage, and it was leading to disastrous results for his offense. He even nearly coughed up a game-ending fumble in the red zone in the final minute.

The game went to overtime and once again the Chiefs won the coin toss. But there was no touchdown magic this time. Mahomes threw a long pass that was tipped and intercepted. The Bengals marched a short field and McPherson kicked a 31-yard field goal to advance Cincinnati to the Super Bowl.

It is the largest road comeback (18 points) in championship game history in the NFL. The Bengals are the only defense since 2001 to make an interception in the final minute of a one-score game in the fourth quarter or overtime in three straight playoff games.

Super Bowl LVI vs. Rams

The Bengals were a 4-point underdog in Super Bowl LVI, but it was the first Super Bowl ever that did not feature a top-three seed. Both the Bengals and Rams were No. 4 seeds. It was also unique in that it featured the quarterback with the most sacks (Burrow) against the quarterback with the most interceptions (Matthew Stafford). But both offenses had great receiving corps and the quarterbacks could make big plays down the field despite some mistakes.

But in the end, Burrow’s 7 sacks were more harmful than Stafford’s 2 interceptions in the game. There was a window in the second and third quarters after Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL where the Bengals took control of the game. But they only turned Stafford’s 2 picks into 3 points. In fact, a sack by Aaron Donald on a third down is what forced the Bengals into kicking a field goal to take a 20-13 lead.

The Bengals went scoreless on their final five drives while the Rams reclaimed a 23-20 lead thanks to Cooper Kupp’s MVP effort. The Bengals had a chance to drive for the win or tie, but on a fourth-and-1 at midfield, Donald’s pressure on Burrow forced a game-clinching incompletion with 39 seconds left.

If Super Bowls were 58 minutes long, the Bengals would have two trophies right now, but alas, they are 0-3 in the Super Bowl with losses by a combined 11 points. Still, it was the most successful season the team has had since 1988, and the future looks bright. But long-term success is never guaranteed in this league, and the Bengals will have to prove they are more than a one-year wonder.