The NFL betting has the Cincinnati Bengals sinking back down toward mediocrity once again after their run to the Super Bowl last season. They still have Joe Burrow at quarterback, one of the best wide receiving groups, led by Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, and they shored up an area of need in the draft by adding safety Daxton Hill out of Michigan. The draft also brought Tycen Anderson and Cam Taylor-Britt into the secondary, and in free agency, they strengthened the O-line with Alex Cappa, La’el Collins. With these new additions, the Bengals look ready to make another deep playoff run.
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Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers (at home, Week 1; on the road, Week 11)
In both cases, the Bengals have plenty of time to prepare, as they open with the Steelers at home and travel to Heinz Field after their bye week. The Bengals have beaten the Steelers three times in a row in the regular season, and last year, Burrow completed almost 81 percent of his passes in the Bengals’ two victories over the Steelers. This time around, the Steelers don’t have Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback anymore. They do have Mitch Trubisky, but that’s a downgrade, and by Week 11, rookie Kenny Pickett might have the starting job. The Bengals are projected to pull off the sweep once again.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Cleveland Browns (on the road, Week 8; at home, Week 14)
The Browns are another team going through quarterback transition, but the chaos in Cleveland is even higher. Deshaun Watson is the starter, but he faces a potential one-year suspension, and once that suspension comes down, a lawsuit in federal court is expected, which could drag things out for a significant amount of time. The team shipped Baker Mayfield to Carolina, leaving Jacoby Brissett as the presumptive starter while Watson’s suspension goes on. The Browns do have a punishing running game, with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt carrying the ball, and Amari Cooper joins a talented wide receiving corps. Last year, Cleveland delivered a shocking 41-16 win over Cincinnati in Week 9, led by Chubb’s 70-yard touchdown run and a 99-yard pick-six from Denzel Ward, and the defense and the running game will have to stand tall again. This time around, though, I project Cincinnati to get the sweep.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Baltimore Ravens (on the road, Week 5; at home, Week 18)
The Week 18 matchup could be for the AFC North, if the Ravens can put things back together. Last year, the Bengals routed the Ravens twice, with Burrow throwing for 525 yards, setting a franchise record, and four scores in the second meeting. Baltimore traded Hollywood Brown to Arizona, removing one of Lamar Jackson’s few elite targets. Jackson missed time with injury last year, but a return to health should have the Ravens as more of a contender. I project the Ravens to win the Week 5 matchup and the Bengals to win in Week 18. If the Ravens fall off the table and are out of the playoff mix by Week 18 (and the Bengals have clinched the division), Cincinnati could rest key players and take the loss.
Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys (Week 2)
Dallas had a sound offense last year but lost Amari Cooper and La’el Collins; they had a stout defense in 2021 but lost several key free agents. The Cowboys did not address any of those needs in a significant way in free agency, so I expect this to be a track meet for the first quarter or two before the Bengals pull away after halftime. I project the Bengals to win and cover.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots (Week 16)
Cincinnati has not played a New England team without Tom Brady in 21 years. Mac Jones did lead the Pats to a playoff berth as a rookie, and this could be a trap game for the Bengals down the stretch, as Bill Belichick will have some unique defensive ideas against Joe Burrow. Even so, the Bengals finished 2021 strong and have the same leadership in place. I project the Bengals to win but the Patriots to cover.
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