The 2023-2024 season saw the Cincinnati Bengals’ franchise quarterback Joe Burrow go down with a wrist injury in week 11– though a devastating blow, the Bengals managed to finish with a 9-8 record with Jake Browning under center. Cincinnati fought for the playoffs until the final weeks, winning three out of four games following Burrow’s injury. However, losses to Pittsburgh and Kansas City shattered their slim hopes. Look for the Bengals to be a playoff contender as they’re tied for the NFL’s 16th most demanding schedule, meaning that Burrow and co. can compete.

Cincinnati’s offseason saw rumors swirl regarding star receivers Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase’s statuses with the squad. Higgins requested a trade as he got franchise-tagged. The Bengals have not negotiated a new contract with Higgins in over a year. Chase and Higgins both skipped Voluntary OTAs. The receiving duo did this after the Bengals resisted paying them their desired salaries. Running back Joe Mixon was traded to the Houston Texans for a seventh-round pick, while Tyler Boyd signed with the Tennessee Titans on May 7. The Bengals also signed two ex-Patriots players to plug in offensive holes, getting tight end Mike Gesicki and offensive lineman Trent Brown on one-year deals.

A notable loss came in the secondary as cornerback Chidobe Awuzie departed for Tennessee, signing with them on March 11. Cincy acquired safety Vonn Bell in free agency to counter Awuzie’s exit. TCU corner Josh Newton was picked in the fifth round to add depth to the secondary.

Georgia offensive lineman Amarius Mims was selected 18th by Cincy – Mims’ selection is an attempt to bolster protection for Burrow. Michigan defensive tackle Kris Jenkins gives the Bengals power on the defensive line. At the same time, Alabama’s Jermaine Burton has the potential to be a solid third receiver, taking the load off Chase and Higgins.

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Important games for Cincy include the Chiefs in week 2, matchups with the Ravens in Weeks 5 and 10, and the Browns in Weeks 7 and 16. Optimism for a strong start is high as the Bengals were blessed with winnable games in the first half – potential victories include the Patriots in the home opener, Commanders Week 3, Carolina Panthers the following week and a Sunday night affair with the G-men at MetLife in Week 6 – the most brutal matches in the first half are evident – Baltimore in week 5, Cleveland in Week 7, and the Philadelphia Eagles Week 8. The second half is where challenges arise – Cincy needs to play the Steelers twice, the Ravens in Baltimore, the Dallas Cowboys, a final matchup with the Browns and the Los Angeles Chargers.

If Burrow stays healthy while Chase and Higgins produce, expect this team to compete for the playoffs.

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WEEK 1 · Sat 08/10 · 7:00 PM EDT | Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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