The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC and reached the Super Bowl last season for the first time since 1988. While the team came up short against the Los Angeles Rams, the Bengals proved themselves not only just a team on the rise in the National Football League (NFL) but a legitimate and consistent Super Bowl contender.
Cincinnati won 10 games in the regular season for the first time since the 2015 season and scored a franchise-record 460 points. The team recorded only 311 points the season prior in quarterback Joe Burrow’s rookie season.
The Bengals even held the lead at several points in Super Bowl LVI before a late score gave the Rams a 23-20 victory. So why do most sportsbooks have Cincinnati as fourth or fifth when ranking potential Super Bowl champions for the 2022 NFL season?
FanDuel, for instance, lists the Bengals at +2200 to win the Super Bowl. This is tied for 11th and behind three teams that missed the playoffs last season (Los Angeles Charges, Denver Broncos, and Cleveland Browns). These are the lowest odds for a reigning conference champion since the 2016 Broncos.
Oddsmakers are often wrong, however. They had Cincinnati at +15000 to reach Super Bowl LVI and we know how that worked out. Here’s why the Bengals will be back in Super Bowl LVII.
Joe Burrow is a Franchise QB
Beyond his stats (we’ll get into that in a second), Burrow simply has the “it” factor that all great quarterbacks have had. He doesn’t lack confidence and has a history of winning both in college and high school. His second season in Cincinnati suggests the franchise is on an upward trend.
Coming back from a gruesome injury the year prior, Burrow recorded 4,611 passing yards and 34 touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions in 16 regular season games last season. He also led the league in completion percentage (70.4) and yards gained per pass attempt (7.9).
Given a clean bill of health and another season of adjusting to NFL schemes and play calling, Burrow should contend for the MVP next season.
Improved Offensive Line
The biggest issue for Cincinnati last season was their offensive line, which was particularly evident in Super Bowl LVI. The fact that the Bengals made the Super Bowl with that line is impressive enough on its own. But they’ve addressed that heading into this season.
Cincinnati signed offensive linemen La’el Collins, Ted Karras, and Alex Cappa in the offseason. Cappa could be the best of the bunch and proved himself effective at protecting Tom Brady with the Buccaneers last season. He’s also quite durable, having not missed a game during the last two seasons.
Addressing Depth Issues in the Draft
Cincinnati selected six players in the 2022 NFL Draft and, while they didn’t add any players expected to become All Pro in their first season, they managed to improve their depth in key positions.
The Bengals first-round pick, Michigan safety Daxton Hill, can play in a variety of schemes, including three-safety sets, and posted some of the most impressive numbers in the NFL Draft Combine. Second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt, a cornerback from Nebraska, should complement Hill on the Bengals defensive unit.