The 2020 NFL season is just a few weeks away and the closer we get, the tighter the betting markets become surrounding future wagering. There are plenty of Bengals related bets to choose from, but these four caught my eye.
Win Total: Under 5.5 wins (+110 via FanDuel)
There has been a lot of excitement surrounding the Bengals. Joe Burrow is growing every day, the offensive line is improving and the linebackers are more athletic than ever. It’s the same story every year for most NFL teams. Excitement for the season supersedes reality and fanbases start to talk themselves into a best-case scenario.
The Bengals made a lot of moves to improve this team in 2020. Turning over nearly half the starters on a 2-14 team is beneficial in the long run, but in the current climate it's nothing but a disadvantage. Continuity will reign supreme this season due to COVID-19.
The offensive line and linebackers are a huge factor in this pick. There is very little competition in the trenches, which leaves the group with a similar projection to last season. The worst linebacker unit in the league got more athletic, but they also got younger. Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither will gain invaluable experience this season, but no one should expect them to be league average players following a unprecedented offseason.
The first eight weeks of the season are shaping up to be brutal. The Bengals will likely be favored in one game — Oct. 4 against the Jaguars. Fans might point to their favorable strength of schedule, but the most accurate metric for SOS isn't calculated with prior season winning percentage. Using the projected Vegas win totals is more accurate. The Bengals have the tenth-hardest schedule according to the oddsmakers.
This season also makes it harder to get cheap wins in the final weeks of the year. The addition of two playoff spots keeps more teams in contention and makes them less likely to sit starters in meaningless games. Mix all of this with arguably the toughest division in football and a four-win improvement for the Bengals seems like a pipe dream.
Joe Burrow Props
Passing Touchdowns: Over 21.5 (-106 via DraftKings)
The Bengals were 30th in both red zone touchdown percentage and passing touchdowns per game last season in Zac Taylor's first year calling plays. A.J. Green and John Ross both missed significant time due to injury, which played a big factor, yet Bengals passers still tossed 18 TDs. Rookie quarterbacks have surpassed this total (21.5) in three of the past four seasons: Daniel Jones tossed for 24 scores last season, Baker Mayfield notched 27 in 2018, and Prescott amassed 23 in 2016. Jones and Mayfield hit those totals in 13 and 14 games played, respectively.
There is little reason to believe the Bengals defense won't slot into the bottom third of the league again so high-scoring games should be in play and the Bengals face the tenth-easiest schedule by opponent defensive efficiency in 2020.
Take all of that into account and 22 touchdown passes should be no problem for a guy who notched almost three times that many last season.
Passing Yards: Under 3,800.5 (-112 via FanDuel)
It might seem counterintuitive to take opposite sides on these first two props, but offensive identity plays a big role. Bengals passers combined for 3,994 yards through the air in 2019, but that total comes with a catch. The Bengals aired it out at the sixth-highest rate of any team in the league last year (61.5 percent).
Cincinnati knows that's not a winning offensive formula, especially with a rookie quarterback.
“The more Joe (Mixon) touches the ball the better it is for our offense, without a doubt,” Brian Callahan said earlier this month. “All the ways we can find to get him the ball, the better it’s going to be.”
The Bengals clearly want to be more balanced on offense and that will have a negative effect on passing attempts in 2020. History also isn't on Burrow's side. The only rookie quarterback in the past five years to eclipse 3,800 yards is Jameis Winston, who threw for 4,042 yards in 2015.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Yes (+230 via FanDuel)
It's been 28 years since Carl Pickens joined Eddie Brown as the only Rookie of the Year winners in franchise history. Burrow is trying to become the third Bengals player to win the award. As the betting favorite, this is Burrow's award to lose. He will have a full season to show the league what he can do. He should have solid numbers, at worst. He has a perfect cocktail of elite weapons.
Burrow is going to have to overcome a shaky offensive line and a poor defense. He’ll probably have to put up big numbers to keep the Bengals in games.
Since 2000, running backs have won this award nine times. Quarterbacks have won it eight times and wide receivers won it three times. The only rookie running back with the keys to the kingdom is Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but he could get lost in the sea of great Chiefs playmakers. Burrow has a guaranteed floor every week and a ceiling that he shattered throughout his final year at LSU. He is in position to be the first Offensive Rookie of the Year winner from the AFC since Vince Young in 2006.