CINCINNATI — The Bengals were the worst team in football last season. They posted a 2-14 record and earned the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
To their credit, they've made plenty of moves this offseason to close the talent gap between them and the rest of the NFL.
Cincinnati signed eight unrestricted free agents, including six projected starters. They also drafted quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick. Players like A.J. Green, Jonah Williams and John Ross are finally healthy.
This team has a lot more talent than they did a season ago, but that doesn't mean everyone is one board with the Bengals making noise in the AFC North.
Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr has Cincinnati finishing with a 2-14 record for a second straight year.
He has the Steelers going 13-3, the Ravens finishing 12-4 and the Browns posting a 9-7 record.
"In my initial run, I also found it hard to squeeze out a win for the Bengals," Orr wrote. "Cincinnati did not register in the “W” column of my spreadsheet and thus did not factor into the computations (I have since reneged and given them victories against the Giants and Washington). It’s a historically difficult year to break in a rookie passer, especially when you’re a team whose infrastructure was so poor that you had the ability to pick No. 1 in the 2020 draft. Pittsburgh and Baltimore, meanwhile, have schedules that set up quite nicely. Should the Steelers survive that early stretch of games between late September and mid-October (Houston, at Tennessee, Philadelphia), they’ll be rolling into their first head-to-head matchup with the Ravens just before Halloween."
The Bengals have only finished 2-14 twice in team history (2002, 2019). It's hard to envision a scenario where that happens again. They may not threaten anyone in the division, but they should compete week-in and week-out.
I predicted the Bengals would finish with a 7-9 record this season. That may be a little unrealistic, but I think it's more likely than them going 2-14 for just the third time in team history.
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