season’s Bengals: We want to buy into the story of a team slowly climbing the hill, moving forward, and using past playoff losses to eventually reach the Super Bowl.
The Cincinnati Bengals were 4-11-1 in 2020. Their coach Zach Taylor was probably on the hot seat. They started 7-6 last season. Then they caught fire and made the Super Bowl. They might have won the championship if not for a questionable third-and-goal holding call that led to the Los Angeles Rams’ game-winning touchdown. It was a magical run, practically out of nowhere.
This is the NFL and fortunes can change quickly. Which team could be this season’s Bengals and go from not making the playoffs last season to playing in Super Bowl LVII? Let’s take a look at the top five candidates:
Just remembered: Crows, Colts, Lions
The Baltimore Ravens do not fit this list. They missed the playoffs last season due to an unbelievable string of injuries. They can make the Super Bowl. That shouldn’t surprise anyone considering the Ravens’ track record. I’m going to put the Indianapolis Colts in the same box. They should improve and make the playoffs, but they have been pretty steady under Frank Reich. No one should be surprised if they are great with new quarterback Matt Ryan.
The Detroit Lions are an interesting case in point. They came at the end of last season. Everyone seems optimistic about them. I just can’t get them to a Super Bowl. Then again, no one thought the Bengals would do it at this point last year.
Maybe all the Vikings needed was a new voice. Mike Zimmer had a great record as Vikings coach but there was some disconnect between his staff and a roster that was underwhelming. We have no idea what Kevin O’Connell will be as a head coach, but maybe the ideas he brings from his time as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams will spark something. Like last year’s Bengals, this offense has a lot of top talent. Perhaps this is the season that all comes together.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints had an amazing offseason. It looks like he finally got caught up in the habit of kicking his salary cap hit down the road as he entered the offseason by more than $70 million over the cap. Then they kicked the salary cap further down the road and were mostly fine. What was left was a defense that could be one of the best in the NFL, an offense that has Michael Thomas back and apparently won’t lose Alvin Kamara to suspension, and an NFC South that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Besides, it is quite weak. , which looks a little weak. It will be a different approach than the Bengals, who will rely on defense rather than offense, but no one on their roster of Super Bowl contenders has saints.
Like the 2021 Bengals, the Jaguars have the No. 1 overall pick entering their second season with plenty of questions. Last year at this time with Joe Burrow, it was his knee. Along with Trevor Lawrence, it was a poor rookie season that may or may not be attributable to having Urban Meyer as a coach. If we’re going to blame Meyer for being the worst coach in recent NFL history, Lawrence should start living up to his uber-prospect status. The Jaguars spent a lot of money in the offseason, spending more at almost every turn, but the roster is better. The AFC South is the weakest of the four divisions in the conference. It seems hard to project the Jaguars making a really big leap, but the 2021 Bengals were coming off a 4-11-1 season and they did it.
The last playoff game for the Broncos was Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning was their quarterback. Manning has been in the Hall of Fame for over a year. Denver has been desperate to find a quarterback since Manning retired, and Russell Wilson has been included. It’s been said countless times that the Broncos were a good team that just needed a quarterback to make it all happen. We are about to find out.
Los Angeles Chargers
No, it’s not a Bengals-level jump. The Chargers would have made the playoffs last season if the Las Vegas Raiders had settled for tie-in overtime in Week 18, which they didn’t. But the commonality between the two situations is a star quarterback from the 2020 draft. Justin Herbert and Joe Bro have played at a superstar level since joining the league. The Bruins achieved their playoff run last season and it’s easy to project Herbert to achieve that this season. The Chargers, like last year’s Bengals, have a lot of exciting talent around the quarterback. And although the Chargers have been competitive in recent seasons, they haven’t won a playoff game since January 2008, other than in the wild-card round. While it wouldn’t be a complete shock if the Chargers made the Super Bowl. A franchise that has never won a Super Bowl and has barely made the playoffs has finally found success with a talented roster around a phenomenal young quarterback.