CINCINNATI — The Bengals won three playoff games last season and were 90 seconds away from their first Super Bowl win.
Now they face a steep climb in a tough AFC Conference that has seen teams like the Broncos, Raiders, Dolphins, Browns and others add stars to their roster this offseason.
Cincinnati is seventh in Peter King's post free agency and draft power rankings. The Bills, Chargers, Chiefs, Rams, Packers and Buccaneers are ahead of them.
"Want the good news or the bad news first? Start with the bad: In the last 27 years, only one Super Bowl loser has won the conference championship the following season—the Patriots four years ago. (Lost to Eagles in Super Bowl 52, won AFC next year, beat Rams in Super Bowl 53.) Excepting that Patriots team, the last six Super Bowl losers have won an average of 8.8 games the next year," King wrote. "Now for the good news: This is a rising team, highly competitive, with a confident and fearless quarterback in Joe Burrow and a fiery defensive leader and good pass-rusher in Trey Hendrickson. The right side of the offensive line, trampled in the Super Bowl, is all new: center Ted Karras, guard Alex Cappa, tackle La’el Collins. The loss of tight end C.J. Uzomah will be felt, but there’s enough firepower here for the Bengals to be a top five offense. I like Cincinnati to edge Baltimore for the division title, but a deep run will be tough with a first-place schedule—games at the Cowboys, the Saints, the Titans, the Bucs and the Patriots, and KC and Buffalo visiting the Queen City. The Bengals are a team on the rise, without question. I don’t think they can beat Buffalo this year, but in the long haul, I love their prospects to contend in the Burrow years."
The Ravens were ranked one spot behind the Bengals (8th). The Browns (18th) and Steelers (23rd) were in the bottom half of the rankings.
The Chargers made big moves this offseason, but having them second seems a bit high. The Packers lost one of the top playmakers in the NFL and should take a step back this year.
The Bengals are better, but there are plenty of other teams that have also upgraded their roster.
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