The last two AFC Championship wins by the Bengals in 1988 and 2021 were both Cinderella stories in their own way. The idea of keeping the fairytale going with another Super Bowl appearance this year might sound a little too much – but as the regular season gets fully into its stride, there is reason to hope. Let’s take an objective look at the prospects for the Bengals, and at their main rivals.
AFC North is there for the taking
When the season got underway, there was almost a sense that nobody wanted to go first in the AFC North. The Bengals could not have got off to a worse start, losing to the Steelers in Week One and then to the Cowboys. Since then, there has been a recovery of sorts, and despite yet another loss to divisional rivals Baltimore, Cincinnati somehow go into week eight at the top of the division.
4-3 is almost the dictionary definition of mediocre, but already, there is a sense that even if they manage to go 0-3 against their divisional rivals when they play the Browns next week, the Bengals will somehow still float to the top.
Stiffer competition across the conference
Right now betJACK are quoting the Bengals at 11/1 to take the AFC title for a second year in succession. Their path to the Super Bowl this year is going to be a tough one. As defending AFC champions, they will have to play all of last year’s divisional winners, including this year’s Super Bowl favorites Buffalo and the always-dangerous Kansas City in what will be a crucial few weeks in December. They will also be up against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in their first regular season game of the new year.
Big game performers
Do the Bengals have the talent to go all the way for a second season? Joe Burrow is increasingly looking like the real thing, and moved to the top of the power rankings after throwing for 481 yards against the Falcons and running in for a touchdown for good measure. His partnership with Ja’Marr Chase could be one of the season’s big talking points come January. Meanwhile on the defense, Trey Hendrickson ,Sam Hubbard and Vonn Bell can combine to shut down any attack.
Yet the real strength of the Bengals is the team’s ability to come together and be greater than the sum of its parts when it truly matters. We saw it last year when they ground out a win against the Titans to make it to the championship game and then all doubts were eliminated after the incredible recovery from 21-3 down at half time to overcome the Chiefs in OT.
This year’s Bengals are a stronger unit than last year. They know what they can achieve and this is a team that fears nobody. Repeat last year’s achievements? Burrow and co have no doubt they can do more than that and go a step better.