Home games: LA Chargers, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Tennessee, NY Giants, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Baltimore.
Road games: Cleveland, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Washington, Miami, Houston.
Projected record: 8-8
Smokin’ Joe Burrow is in town. He’s been smoking that NCAA Championship-winning cigar but now it’s time to join the big boys in the NFL… or is it?
With the COVID-19 regulations restricting players from entering team facilities and players unable to practice together, those who may suffer most from the recent restrictions would be rookie quarterbacks about to be thrown in the deep end.
Burrow is cool, calm, composed and can perform at an elite level under pressure but is there any need to add extra layers to what will already be a difficult initiation as he faces three strong defences inside the division?
Sure, the offence does look capable – especially with the return of All Pro receiver A.J. Green and the emergence of Tyler Boyd and drafting of Tee Higgins from Clemson. Former round one pick, John Ross, must gain consistency to help this Bengals unit.
Green and Boyd have the capability of being an elite 1-2 punch and Higgins could certainly be a deadly third wheel.
Joe Mixon leads the Bengals backfield but a contract haggle looms. Mixon is not worth selling the farm for but he would also be incredibly handy to have alongside Burrow week one. A holdout must be avoided – but not at any cost.
Hence why sitting Burrow early in the season may be a path worth plotting. It’s unlikely, but I would give serious thought considering the following;
Mixon’s uncertainty, Green’s health, no real tight end threat, inconsistent offensive line and fierce in-division defences. Not exactly a method for rookie QB success.
Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins still lead a decent defensive unit but the secondary is leaky. Adding Trae Waynes for $42m seems steep but improvements need to be made to this area of the roster.
All in all, Burrow will likely start week one but opening your NFL career with a less-than-ideal preparation with the Chargers then Browns and Eagles on the road is not something to smile about.
Green shoots do appear if you look hard enough in Who Dey nation but more patience may be required.