There’s not much room to go but up for the Bengals.
Their reward for a catastrophic 2-14 season was former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who put together one of the best seasons in the history of college football a year ago. Now, he’ll try to resurrect the Bengals.
And for a team that picked first overall a year ago, they’re not without firepower.
To aid Burrow and his development, they’ve got running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard in the backfield. At wide receiver, Burrow will have A.J. Green, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate to throw to.
The Ravens’ secondary, for their matchups against the Bengals this season, certainly won’t have an easy workday dealing with their talent on the outside.
The problem for the Bengals, though, is that they clearly picked first for a reason. And aside from poor quarterback play, they’ve got a host of other issues to fix.
Their defense ranked 25th in the league in points allowed last season (26.3 points per game) and Cincinnati had to revamp the unit over the offseason. They’ll have five new starters in Week 1. Without a preseason, it’s unclear how long it will take for the group to come together. They’ll catch a break, though, as they won’t play the Ravens and defending MVP Lamar Jackson until Oct. 11.
Last year, the Ravens beat the Bengals 23-17 in Week 6 and then 49-13 in Week 10. Neither game was particularly close, despite the six-point score in the first matchup.
When the Bengals do play the Ravens, and look to avenge both of their losses a season ago, it could be the first of many matchups between Burrow and Jackson in the AFC North.
Burrow, who is actually older than Jackson, is the new franchise hope for a division suddenly with three first-round quarterbacks — and two No. 1 overall picks.
While the Bengals seemingly aren’t ready for contention just yet, their skill position groups should be a good test for the Ravens’ talented secondary with Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young and Chuck Clark.
Even if the defense can’t hold up, Burrow and the Bengals’ offense could provide a glimpse of offensive explosions to come.