Bengals built to contend behind Joe Burrow

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) line up before a play during a training camp practice at the Paycor Stadium practice field in downtown Cincinnati on Wednesday, July 26, 2023.
Credit: Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

2022 record: 12-4, first place AFC North

Playoff picture: The Bengals are in the upper tier of contenders in the AFC based on their recent track record, which includes a Super Bowl appearance and 3-1 record against the Kansas City Chiefs during Joe Burrow’s highly successful tenure. As long as Burrow is healthy, the Bengals are going to be there in the end.

Biggest Week 1 question: Will the overhaul of the offensive line help preserve Burrow? A calf injury pushed the franchise QB to the sideline for most of the preseason. He was sacked 29 times in the playoffs the past two seasons alone, and 41 in the regular season. If the hits keep coming, the concern could be for Burrow’s longevity. His health is directly tied to the playoff outlook in Cincinnati.

What’s new: Orlando Brown Jr. enters at left tackle, jumping from chief of blindside security for Patrick Mahomes to anchor the Cincinnati front five. That puts 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams at right tackle and should fortify a line that was anything but bulletproof in recent seasons. Coaches view Brown’s addition as a phase two touch that follows the leadership-altering addition of center Ted Karras in free agency last offseason.

They’re gone: Both safeties found greener pastures and the impact on the pass defense might be more significant than expected. Vonn Bell joined the Carolina Panthers and Jessie Bates II landed with the Atlanta Falcons. Dax Hill, a first-round pick in 2022, steps in at strong safety and the Bengals signed Nick Scott while spending three 2023 draft picks on defensive backs.

On the money: Burrow is about to break the bank. The Bengals are projected to be in the $56 million to $60 million range annually on a new deal for Burrow, which brings the future of other stars on the roster into the picture. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase would be next in line for a massive payday.

Get to know: Cincinnati’s trio of receivers can measure up with any in the NFL, and the Bengals are banking on Vikings castoff Irv Smith to make major contributions at tight end. Coming out of Alabama, Smith was viewed as a reliable third-down and red zone target but the 50th pick in the 2019 draft wasn’t able to stay healthy. He has 91 receptions in four seasons.

Vegas says: FanDuel sees Cincinnati as the division favorite at +150 ahead of the Baltimore Ravens (+220).

–FIeld Level Media

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