Cincinnati Bengals Team Preview


    The Bengals are coming off a disappointing season by their standards after making a Conference Finals and Superbowl in the two seasons prior. Expectations were understandably high entering last season, but things started off shaky before the season even started as Joe Burrow sustained a calf injury in training camp which clearly limited his play as the season began.  He pushed through though, and the Bengals appeared to be hitting their stride by Week 10 until he endured a second injury to his wrist which ended his season. Jake Browning stepped up in his place and had his moments, even declaring at one point that the Vikings “should’ve never cut him”, but his efforts were eventually for nothing as the Bengals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2020 with a 9-8 record which was good for last place in the stacked AFC North division.

    It’s hard to place too much weight on last season given the injuries to Burrow and the Bengals are hoping that his return can catapult them back to contention in the 2024/2025 season. The offense will look a bit different though as the Bengals elected to release seven-year veteran Joe Mixon, in favor of cheaper options. The Bengals signed Zack Moss to a two-year $8M contract to slot alongside their 2023 fifth-round pick Chase Brown. Zack Moss is expected to be the lead back, but there will almost certainly be a running back competition, which I will expand upon later.

    The wide receiver room will continue to be headlined by long-time Burrow teammate, Ja’Marr Chase who will be entering his fourth season. Chase had somewhat of a down season in 2023 by his lofty standards, but he should undoubtedly still be selected as a top-three wide receiver in 2024 fantasy drafts. His upside is especially high given his pending new massive contract and the serious question marks around Tee Higgins who was franchise tagged and subsequently requested a trade this offseason. for  It’s anyone’s guess as to how this will play out and it is certainly possible that he will hold out to try to force the Bengals to move him as he pursues a long-term deal. The Bengals also lost long-time veteran Tyler Boyd to the Titans who consistently served as a safety net for Burrow. He always filled in nicely whenever tasked to slot into the WR2 due to injuries to Chase or Higgins. The Bengals did however draft WR Jermaine Burton in the third round and are hoping he can at least replicate some of the WR3 production that Boyd produced historically. Trenton Irwin also enters his fifth year with the Bengals and is hoping to show that he is a legitimate player worthy of consistent targets and opportunity.  At tight end, the Bengals signed seven-year veteran Mike Gesicki. Gesicki is coming off two poor seasons from an offensive production standpoint, but the Bengals are optimistic that he can return to his 2021 level production given additional opportunities. He has historically been a strong real end zone threat and almost never drops the ball (career drop rate of just under 2%). I am sure that he is also eager to get some TDs so that he can show off his infamous “Griddy” dance skills to the Bengals fans. The Bengals offensive line was bad again in 2023 ranking 26th in PFF grade, but they did their best to address this weakness by signing Trent Brown. The Bengals also used their first-round pick on 6-8 340lbs Amarius Mims. Their offensive line projects to be much better in 2024 which should be huge for keeping Joe Burrow upright as well as giving him more time to find his star receivers.

    Writer’s Season Win Prediction: 10-7

    The quarterback position is an obvious strength for the Bengals as Joe Burrow is not just dreamy but is also a clear top-five quarterback in the NFL. Despite his wrist injury in 2023, all signs point to him returning to close to 100% for the start of the 2024 season. Burrow is entering his fifth season and prior to his injury-riddled 2023 season, he threw for 34 and 35 touchdowns respectively in the two seasons prior. Browning is back as the backup and while he is tenable if needed with a Passer Rating of 98.4 in his 7 start last season, he doesn’t offer quite the same ceiling as Burrow. Burrow has elite upside throwing for over 400 yards and 3+ touchdowns 5 times throughout his short career thus far and the Bengals are certainly hoping that this is the year that Burrow can stay healthy to finally lead them over the hump to a Superbowl victory.

    Ja’Marr Chase is back and will be in a contract year. His best season to date was as a rookie where he set numerous records. After a subpar second and third season by his standards, Chase will be entering his fourth season trying to prove that he’s the best wide receiver in football and a tier above contemporaries like college teammate, Justin Jefferson and 2023 yards-leader, Tyreek Hill. If he performs as he expects, he will be hoping to reset the WR market and usurp the massive deal just signed by Jefferson. There should also be plenty of targets to go around for Chase, given the uncertainty around his WR2 in Tee Higgins who is expected to hold-out in search of a trade and or a long-term deal. Boyd is also gone leaving some additional vacated targets. Chase is currently projected to be taken as the fourth overall WR behind CeeDee Lamb, Jefferson, and Hill and given his superior quarterback play relative to the aforementioned three players above him, I would not be critical of anyone who chose to take Chase number-one overall. Chase’s target share has historically stayed stable around 25%, but if Higgins is out, that percentage could easily jump to above 30% which would mean massive production for Chase. His ADOT has also been much lower the past 2 seasons after a ridiculous ADOT of 12.6 in his rookie year. If Burrow has a bit more time to throw behind his revamped offensive line, Chase’s ADOT would definitely spike leading to more big plays and long touchdowns. There are recent concerns that Chase may holdout in search of an early extension, but I don’t see this as a major concern. He will either report or the Bengals will pay him as  they really don’t have any other choice with a player of his magnitude. If other fantasy managers are fearful that he may holdout then take it as an opportunity to get Chase at an even better ADP and be thankful you got the potential WR1 in fantasy at a depressed value.

    On the defensive side of the ball, the line is still a strength for the Bengals. Although their edge players in Hendrickson and Hubbard exceed the talent of their interior tackles, their defensive line overall is incredibly strong. They added Kris Jenkins out of Michigan at 49th overall in the draft who is expected to make a significant impact early and take the place of DJ Reader who departed this offseason. The hope for the Bengals is that the interior tackles can perform just strong enough that the edge stars can wreak absolute havoc. The defensive backs for the Bengals are extremely young and somewhat unproven but still have a lot of potential so there is certainly optimism. The Bengals also signed free safety Geno Stone from their fellow division rival who should expect to be a key starter from day one.

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