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Can Cincinnati Bengals repeat final 12 months’s success? Historical past says not going

Can Joe Burrow and the Bengals do it once more? Don’t depend on it.
Picture: AP

The Cincinnati Bengals have been each analyst’s nightmare final season. No person anticipated them to win the AFC North. They did. No person anticipated them to achieve the Tremendous Bowl. They did. Now, in 2022, everyone seems to be anticipating comparable outcomes, possibly not one other Tremendous Bowl look, however at the least 10 wins and a playoff berth.

Everybody however me.

I’m going towards the grain. Have I been burned by the Bengals earlier than? Completely, however very like after I rushed right into a relationship after the most important heartbreak of my life, I’m able to do it over again!

I’m not going to sit down right here and say the Bengals are a worse group now than they have been on the finish of final season. They’re not. Certain, they misplaced T Riley Reiff and TE C.J. Uzomah, however the additions of lineman Alex Cappa, La’el Collins, Ted Karras, in addition to TE Hayden Hurst far outweigh these losses. That’s not the place I’ve a problem. My problem lies in believing the Bengals can recapture that magic they’d final 12 months. The Bengals’ inconceivable run to the Tremendous Bowl was fueled by last-minute performs, gamers having profession years, and luck.

There are simply too many query marks. For one, do we expect Trey Hendrickson will get at the least half a sack in 11 straight video games once more, a feat that’s solely been achieved two different instances (in a single season) for the reason that flip of the century? Do we actually assume Chidobe Awuzie goes to be a top-tier nook once more like he was final season after 2018, 19, and 20 the place his ceiling was simply above serviceable? Are we positive the Bengals will be capable to deal with a first-place schedule in a much-improved AFC?

Let’s speak about that for a second. Let’s take into consideration what number of groups within the AFC are both actually good, actually well-coached, or vastly improved this offseason. The Chiefs are good. The Bengals play them this 12 months. The Titans have some query marks, however they’re fairly well-coached. The Bengals will play Tennessee this 12 months. The Dolphins acquired higher. The Ravens acquired wholesome. The Browns could have gotten higher after Watson serves his suspension. The Payments are fairly rattling good.

Let’s say the Bengals make the playoffs. They could face the Chargers. They’re higher than they have been final 12 months. The Broncos improved. The Raiders improved. The Colts improved. Each respectable group within the AFC acquired higher, so the Bengals’ additions of Collins, Cappa, and Karras aren’t really as large a step ahead as it could appear. I’d argue that they’re one of many lesser-improved contenders within the AFC.

The Bengals’ offense was nice final 12 months, however in soccer, you at all times should be evolving. After a full offseason of finding out the Bengals’ recreation tape, groups will modify if the Bengals’ teaching employees doesn’t begin injecting new life into their play-calling. Is Zac Taylor actually that type of coach? The type that may create new dynamic performs whereas stretching the boundaries of his personnel? I doubt it, as a result of as explosive because the Bengals’ offense was final 12 months, it was clear that Taylor was holding them again. Many followers imagine Burrow needed to win regardless of Taylor reasonably than Taylor working to make Burrow higher. Taylor’s play-calling within the playoffs was lower than stellar and followers have been properly conscious. Now that the Bengals aren’t catching anybody abruptly, the teaching goes to turn into all of the extra essential and Taylor hasn’t proven sufficient to warrant confidence from me.

The connection between Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase was magical final 12 months. It was explosive, thrilling, and most of all, made everybody who mentioned Chase’s preseason drops could be an issue come the common season (together with me) tuck their head between their legs and waddle away from the grownup desk at Thanksgiving in disgrace. Nonetheless, looking at a few of these catches from final 12 months, I discover it exhausting to ascertain a world the place that very same magic is captured in Year 2. A lot of the explosiveness between the 2 got here on deep passes. I doubt there was anybody higher within the league on go routes than Chase. Nonetheless, Burrow’s (in)consistency on deep passes has at all times been a scorching matter when discussing the previous No. 1 general choose…till final 12 months. All these worries appeared to fade away due to how good Chase was at bringing these deep passes down. Possibly it was an indication of what’s to come back, however possibly Burrow regresses in that division and hastily Chase can’t carry down fairly so many. I don’t assume that’s an unwarranted concern. I’m not saying it’s going to occur, but it surely’s one other “what if” that lingers at the back of my thoughts whereas attempting to judge this Bengals group.

Lastly, I do know it’s been mentioned and noticed one million instances, however simply because the Bengals have been within the Tremendous Bowl final 12 months doesn’t imply they’re only a piece or two away from successful all of it. More often than not, a Tremendous Bowl look is as excessive as a group goes. Are you aware who else thought they have been only a piece or two away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy? The 2016 Atlanta Falcons, the 2015 Carolina Panthers, the 2008 Arizona Cardinals, Dan Marino — you get the concept. The historical past of groups dropping within the Tremendous Bowl after which underperforming the next season is well-documented.

Simply have a look at current losers within the Tremendous Bowl. In 2020, the 2019 NFC champion San Francisco 49ers missed the playoffs fully. The 2019 Rams missed the playoffs. The 2018 Eagles reached the playoffs, solely to win one recreation due to the double doink and promptly get dropped by the Saints. The 2017 Falcons completed third of their division, and misplaced to Nick Foles within the divisional spherical. The 2016 Panthers went 6-10. The 2015 Seahawks had their worst season (record-wise) within the Russell Wilson period to that time. The 2014 Broncos noticed Peyton Manning lose to the man who changed him in Indianapolis. The 2013 49ers grew to become damaged after they went after Richard Sherman with a sorry receiver like Michael Crabtree. You get the concept. More often than not, a Tremendous Bowl loss is the furthest the group goes for a number of years.

I don’t assume this can be a dangerous group by any means, however are they actually the perfect group within the AFC? No. Final 12 months, they squeaked via the playoffs. They gained’t get as fortunate in the identical scenario this time round.

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