Joe Burrow is back.
For a Cincinnati Bengals franchise that didn’t see much go its way in 2020, that’s at least one solid building block and piece of good news heading into the upcoming season.
The Bengals’ No. 1 overall pick last year tossed 13 touchdown passes against just five interceptions before a knee injury in November prematurely ended his rookie season. Now Burrow is once again fully healthy and looking to pick up where he left off in trying to lead Cincinnati out of the basement of the AFC North.
It’s not going to be an easy task, as the Bengals compete in one of the toughest divisions in football. Fellow AFC North teams Pittsburgh (12-4 last year), Baltimore (11-5), and Cleveland (11-5) all advanced to the postseason a year ago, so the Bengals have their work cut out for them.
Cincinnati is hoping for big things from top-five pick Ja’Marr Chase, a college teammate of Burrow’s at LSU. Chase will further deepen a stable of Bengals wide receivers that includes Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, but needs to get over an issue with repeated drops that plagued him all preseason.
Joe Mixon led the team in rushing last year despite missing the last 10 games of the season, so if he can stay healthy for the entire 2021 campaign, that should make a huge difference for an offense that ranked among the worst in the league (29th of 32 teams) in both yardage and scoring.
On defense, the Bengals brought in free agents like Trey Hendrickson, Chidobe Awuzie, and Mike Hilton. All three veterans are expected to start and play key roles for a franchise that is now 30 years (and counting!) removed from its last postseason win.
Cincinnati kicks off the 2021 season against Minnesota on September 12, followed by a pair of road games at Chicago and Pittsburgh the next two weekends. Home games in Weeks 4 and 5 feature showdowns with the No. 1 overall pick (Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence) and the reigning NFL MVP (Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers), followed by three straight away games (at the Lions, Ravens, and Jets, respectively).
The Bengals’ intrastate rivalry with the Browns is slated for November 7 at Paul Brown Stadium, with the rematch January 9 in Cleveland. Cincinnati will also host the defending AFC champion Chiefs on January 2 to end the home portion of the schedule.
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