If you haven’t heard yet, the Cincinnati Bengals have knocked off reigning AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs to secure a Super Bowl berth for the third time in franchise history and the first time since 1989. It is truly an incredible feat for a team that finished the 2020-21 season in the basement of the AFC North with a record of 4-11-1 and entered this year with only 75-1 odds to win the AFC. It seems that miracles are never impossible, though, as Cincinnati has rebounded dramatically with a combined regular and postseason record of 13-7. And, they will be playing for the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.
Despite the massive turnaround, opening odds for the game between the Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams have LA as early four point favorites to win this year’s NFL title. Even though the Rams may have the more talented roster, there is too much optimism brewing for the Bengals to count them out this early before game time. In fact, there is plenty of reason to believe that Cincinnati won’t stop at the AFC title and will ultimately take home the NFL title at Sunday’s end. As long as Joe Burrow keeps wearing his diamonds and the Bengals’ receiving corps stays intact, you should believe that the Bengals will win the Super Bowl.
Joe Burrow is That Guy
Yes he is, and you already knew that. Ever since his days as a Louisiana State University Tiger, when he won a College Football National Championship and was named a Heisman Trophy winner in 2020, Burrow’s demeanor has instantly made him a fan-favorite in the NFL. There is a reason why people call him “Joe Brrr” and why his Wikipedia page notes that “Burrow is known for his swagger.”
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor noted before Sunday’s AFC Championship game that quarterbacks such as Burrow don’t appear in the NFL very often. His ability to remain calm and focused in big games while never giving way to his competitive nature is “very rare.” After leading his team to a Wild Card victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in a matchup where Cincinnati was in control the entire game, he followed by putting his team in position to win their subsequent divisional round matchup versus the No. 1 seeded Tennessee Titans on a time-expiring field goal. However, Cincinnati’s biggest test of the postseason came Sunday when they faced the Chiefs in Kansas City. As time ticked into the second quarter, the Chiefs had already built themselves a comfortable 18 point lead with the score 21-3, yet, miraculously, Burrow led his team all the way back to tie the game and ultimately secure the victory with a score on the final possession of overtime. The 18 point comeback tied the NFL record for the largest comeback in an AFC Championship game.
It seems that when Burrow is in the zone, no team can stop him. He concluded the regular season with back-to-back historic performances, recording a franchise-record 525 yards and four touchdown passes in Week 16 followed by 446 yards and four touchdown passes in a Week 17 victory that secured the AFC’s fourth seed for Cincinnati. He had a stretch of five straight games with a quarterback rating over 100 that ran through the first round of playoffs. Against teams that qualified for the 2022 NFL playoffs, Burrow has a combined record of 7-2 in both the regular season and postseason. Right now, Burrow is leading the Bengals on one of their hottest streaks in franchise history, and I’m not willing to be the one to bet against him while he continues to win.
Back in November, Bleacher Report published their list of the top receiving trios in the NFL. At the time, the Bengals slotted in at number three with their trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, respectively. Since then, the first-ranked Rams have lost Robert Woods and the second-ranked Dallas Cowboys lost Michael Gallup, both due to season-ending injuries. After those losses, it is entirely feasible to identify Cincy’s receiving corps as the best in the NFL.
All three of the Bengals’ receivers entered the NFL among the most talented players in their draft classes: Chase was selected fifth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft while both Higgins and Boyd were second round picks in 2020 and 2016. Each have recorded over 1,000 receiving yards at some point in their careers, as Boyd has done so twice while Chase and Higgins both eclipsed the mark this season with Burrow. Had all three been their own team, they would have finished the 2021 NFL season with more or the same number receiving touchdowns than 18 other NFL teams had combined. In all, Chase, Higgins and Boyd accounted for two thirds of all receiving touchdowns for Cincinnati this season. Containing the Bengals’ receiving corps has been a problem for opposing defenses, as putting more coverage on one to take away opportunities has opened up more opportunities for others. Chase, specifically, has been a nightmare to contain in his rookie season, as he finished the regular season fourth in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,455, a franchise record, and third in receiving touchdowns with 13, all despite finishing only 22nd in total receptions. In his first season, he recorded games of 101, 125, 159, 201 and a monstrous 266 receiving yards, the latter of which set both a franchise record and an NFL rookie record. His success has continued into the playoffs, as he tallied over 109 receiving yards in each of the Bengals first two games, making him the youngest NFL player with multiple 100 yard receiving games in a single postseason.
It’s hard to imagine Burrow or the rest of Cincy’s offense pushing the breaks ahead of their Super Bowl matchup against the Rams. Although they are early underdogs, their performance leading up to game time suggests that they have more momentum working in their favor than many realize. Icy Joe Brrr will come out firing to his league-best receiving corps, which gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. An up-and-coming team with years of success still ahead, believe in Cincinnati to take home this year’s Lombardi Trophy.