Coming off a resounding 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals are the talk of the proverbial NFL town square, and they’ve taken a shot across the bow at the “powers that be” at the top of the AFC.
Don’t believe it? Just look at what the Bengals were able to accomplish against their AFC North rival.
The Bengals put up an incredible 520 yards of offense on a strong Ravens’ defense. Quarterback Joe Burrow had a watershed moment in an excellent performance, throwing for 416 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps even more impressive is what the Bengals’ defense was able to accomplish against Lamar Jackson. Cincinnati held the MVP quarterback to just 257 yards passing and one touchdown, and only 88 yards on the ground.
The Bengals made a statement.
Still don’t believe it? Just listen to what head coach Zac Taylor had to say after the game. He knows things are finally different in Cincinnati.
Zac Taylor basically said that the Cincinnati Bengals are no longer the “Bungals”
There have been more lowlights than highlights for the Bengals throughout the years. but their head coach feels they’re finally turning the corner. The Bengals have oftentimes jokingly been called the “Bungals” for their inability to play winning football over the years, but now leading the AFC North after beating a very strong Baltimore team, the shoe is on the other foot in Cincinnati.
“It’s a different team,” Taylor said after the win, according to NFL.com. “We’re allowed to build and improve, and we just have a different mentality right now. We’ve done a lot of different things to get to this position, and I’ve given out a lot of tough speeches over time about great things to come and keep working. And you hope and pray that the team believes in that. That’s the foundation of what we’re building, and this is the result. This is their moment. Everything we’ve talked about, we’ve earned.”
Taylor’s high opinion of his team is hard to argue. Now at 5-2 on the season, Cincinnati is not just the best team in its division, but the Bengals are among the top teams in the conference.
The Bengals’ record has them atop the conference rankings. They’re tied with the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans, and the aforementioned Ravens in record, but ahead of the aforementioned teams as the only one among the group without a loss to an AFC opponent.
This is a different Bengals team from what we’ve seen in the past, and much of that has to do with the players the front office has assembled. Credit has to go to Taylor as well. His NFL coaching career started off rough, with a 6-25 record in his first two seasons. He’s now starting to put it all together. It also helps that he has an elite quarterback running the show.
Joe Burrow is leading an explosive Cincinnati offense
Outside of some exciting years with Carson Palmer at quarterback, Cincinnati fans have not had a ton to celebrate in recent NFL memory. Drafting Burrow No. 1 overall in 2020 was arguably the organization’s biggest headline in years, and even that celebration was cut a bit short by the knee injury that ended his rookie season.
Now that Burrow is back and healthy, though, the Bengals have really clicked into a new level. He’s becoming one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, as he currently ranks sixth in the league in passing yards with 1,956 and fifth in touchdowns with 17.
Burrow’s ascension up the NFL’s quarterback mountaintop has notched Cincinnati a spot among the top offenses in the NFL. His favorite wideout, Ja’Marr Chase, is a legitimate contender for rookie of the year, and in fact, he’s ranked among the top wide receivers in the league in general. Burrow and Chase have connected 35 times this season for 754 yards and six touchdowns.
The rookie wide receiver put up an incredible 201 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens. Veteran tight end C.J. Uzomah also had a standout game with 91 yards and two touchdown receptions.
The Bengals’ offense is explosive through the air, but also incredibly effective on the ground. Joe Mixon is the NFL’s third-leading rusher behind only Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor. He also has a well-above-average backup in Samaje Perine.
The Bengals can hurt you in so many ways on offense. The Ravens found that out the hard way.
The Bengals look to be poised for a run
Cincinnati’s next opponent is the lowly New York Jets, so unless they suffer a let-down after the big win against the Ravens, the Bengals should be looking at a three-game win streak when they take on the Cleveland Browns at home in early November. That’s a rivalry game and it won’t be easy to knock off the Kevin Stefanski-led Brownies, but the Bengals should be favored in that game and they will be at home.
Cincinnati’s next biggest test will come on November 21st against the Raiders on the road. While that is shaping up to be a big matchup for this team, the Bengals will have the experience of beating the Ravens on the road in their back pocket. Especially for a young team, every little bit of added confidence helps.
“We’re starting to earn respect, but we still have a long way to go,” Taylor told ESPN. “Just winning one road game against a divisional opponent, that’s what you have to do if you want to compete in this league.”
The Bengals are competing alright, and those are just the words of a coach trying to keep his team humble after they knocked off a giant. The Bengals are more than competing, they’re thriving, and right now they’re the cream of the crop in the AFC.