AFC North – 2023 Cincinnati Bengals Preview
Draft Analysis: B-
It’s tough to improve a roster that doesn’t need much improving, but the Bengals were able to add a ton of depth in the draft. Myles Murphy likely won’t click early in his career as a lead pass rusher. However, he is an exceptional rotation prospect on a team that was only hurting for depth up front on defense. The DJ Turner pick is a bit of a head-scratcher. Turner looks lost in coverage too often and is extremely undersized for an NFL corner. He was drafted in the 2nd round primarily because he ran a 4.26 at the combine. Running a 4.26 is pretty sweet, but that often doesn’t usually translate directly to a being great football player.
In the 3rd they added a middle-of-the-road safety prospect in Jordan Battle, with hopes that he can partially replace the production they lost in free agency at the position. On day 3 Cincinnati went after a ton of skill position depth on offense. The goal likely is that one of those guys (probably Charlie Jones) can replace some of the Tee Higgins production in a year. Overall, it’s a solid grade for a team that shouldn’t need to lean on this class heavily this coming season. What should their record be in this 2023 Bengals preview?
Season Outlook: 13-4 (Division Winner)
Life tends to be pretty good in the NFL when a team has a Joe Burrow at quarterback. Burrow distinguishes himself from great AFC competition as a top 3 QB in the league. He also happens to have one of the best supporting casts in the NFL. The offensive line has gone from a real weakness to a potential top 5 unit with the addition of Orlando Brown. Given his trade request, it remains to be seen what happens with the Jonah Williams saga. Williams was tied for the league lead in sacks allowed (12) and had some significant injury history earlier in his career. That makes it difficult to understand his gripe with the team looking to upgrade at left tackle. If he were to depart, the offensive line would likely still take a dip, so it’s a situation worth monitoring. A healthier Ja’Marr Chase to go with Higgins and Tyler Boyd makes for a top-flight receiving corps. Fantasy owners everywhere seem to finally be souring on Joe Mixon, but his efficiency numbers in 2022 were about on par with what they’ve been since 2019. He is a decent starting NFL running back, usually delivering consistent average performances week after week. That should serve just fine for this version of the Bengals, given the explosiveness in the passing game.
Cincinnati runs back a group that’s mostly in its prime on defense, led by the still incredibly underrated Trey Hendrickson up front. The Bengals are extremely deep in the front 7. The Bengals possess a versatile pass rush, and Logan Wilson plays a crucial role as an underrated shot caller in the middle. The only area of significant concern is the back end of the defense replacing the likes of Jessie Bates, but hey, a good pass rush usually makes a bad secondary look better. This is clearly the best team in the division and should be competing for the top seed in the AFC.
Post Schedule Release Prediction: 14-3 (1 Seed)
No surprises here, the game-by-game projections went just about as expected despite a very difficult schedule. This might be on the higher end of Cincinnati’s potential win total, given their schedule difficulty but it feels achievable. The thought here is that they are going to get to the point this year where they avoid letdown games as they had early in 2022. Their losses throughout the season should all come in hard-fought games against good competition.
**The post schedule release prediction in the 2023 Bengals preview is based on a single simulation, with each game on the schedule picked only once. Difficult schedules to begin a season tend to lead to higher deviations between the season outlook and simulation results. Take a hypothetical team projected to have a season outlook of 8-9. If that team projects to start 1-5 due to a brutal opening stretch, it can derail their whole season. Coaches on losing teams tend to lose locker rooms faster and players on those teams tend to lose motivation. Teams that play an underachieving team later in a season, would likewise get a boost in their win rate.
Main Photo Credit: The Enquirer