Cincinnati Bengals- AFC North Champions (10-7)
The 2021 regular season is complete and the stage is set for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. The Cincinnati Bengals represent the AFC for the first time since 1989. But how did they get there? Genius Sports has you covered.
Over the next two days, Genius Sports Report will tell you all you need to know about the two Super Bowl contenders, using content driven by our official NFL data.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) February 8, 2022
Bengals Stars you need to know…
QB Joe Burrow, 2nd Season
- 4,611 yards
- 34 TD
- 14 INT
WR Ja’marr Chase, Rookie
- 1,455 yards
- 13 TDs
RB Joe Mixon, 5th year
- 1,205 yards
- 13 TDs
DE Trey Hendrickson, 5th year
- 14 sacks
- 3 FF
Regular Season Recap
The Cincinnati Bengals came into the season looking for a massive rebound from last year. QB Joe Burrow injured his knee part way through last season and the team fell apart. Finishing with a 4-12 record, the Bengals took advantage of their high draft pick and paired Burrow up with his former college teammate Ja’marr Chase. The team got off to an up and down start, but at one point led the AFC before dropping two games in a row. At 5-4 heading into the week 10 bye, the Bengals needed to stay on track to make the playoffs.
Cincinnati finished the season 5-3 (10-7 overall) and secured the number 4 seed in the playoffs by winning their division. The Burrow and Chase connection was dynamic throughout the season, and carried them over some big opponents, including the Kansas City Chiefs in week 17 (a team they knew they would eventually face in the playoffs). Chase became must-watch television and all but secured his spot for offensive rookie of the year. His quarterback, Burrow, should easily win comeback player of the year and isn’t out of the discussion for MVP. The Bengals are packed with young talent on offense and will be fun to watch for years to come.
Outside of the young offensive talent, the biggest acquisition for the Bengals was free agent defensive end Trey Hendrickson who led the team with 14 sacks and finished fifth overall. The Bengals defense played inspired football all year and improved from 22nd in scoring defense to 17th in just one year. Enough of a jump to boost their team, especially considering their offense improved from 28th scoring offense to 7th.
Road to the Super Bowl
Entering as the 4th seed meant the Bengals would most likely only host one playoff game, and that’s exactly how it ended up. On Wild Card Weekend, the Bengals played a tough match against the Las Vegas Raiders, edging out the AFC West Wild Card team 26-19.
Arguably their most impressive win of the playoffs came the following week when they travelled to Nashville, Tennessee to take on the AFC’s number one seed. A healthy Titans team was coming off a bye week and took it to Cincinnati. Joe Burrow was sacked nine times, a playoff record for a team that went on to win the game. Thanks to an opportunistic defense that forced timely turnovers from Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill, the Bengals left the Music City with a 19-16 win. Bengals rookie kicker Evan McPherson cemented his early legacy by nailing a last second field goal to win the game. McPherson reportedly said to the Bengals sideline “Looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship game” as he headed on to the field to make the game winning kick.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
The AFC Championship game was the week 17 rematch between the Chiefs and Bengals. Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes jumped out to an early 21-3 halftime lead at home and seemed to have buried the Bengals. However, Joe Burrow and company locked in and made clutch plays to tie the game 24-24 at the end of the 4th quarter. The Cincinnati defense absolutely shut down Mahomes and forced multiple interceptions against the former MVP. The most crucial interception came on Kansas City’s first drive of overtime, allowing the Bengals to get in easy field goal range and earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl Battlefield
There’s definitely a lot of match ups to watch in this game and plenty of storylines to follow. But as a former offensive lineman, and someone who truly appreciates the importance of offensive line play, lets focus on the trenches.
The Rams’ DT Aaron Donald is arguably the best player in the NFL at the moment and a first ballot Hall of Famer. He has disrupted teams from the jump and the Bengals will have their hands full trying to slow him down. Look for Donald to make big plays against a team that allowed 9 sacks against a less talented defensive line.
If the Bengals can give Burrow time to get the ball to his dynamic playmakers then they have a chance. If Donald lives in the backfield, it may be a long night for Bengals fans.