The Bengals had a miserable first season without Marvin Lewis, who spent 16 seasons as the head coach in Cincinnati. New HC Zac Taylor lost A.J. Green before the season even began, and the Bengals proceeded to start the year with an 11-game losing streak to be the first team eliminated from the playoffs in Week 11. The Bengals finished with a league-worst 2-14 record, which cashed at +500 odds, which enabled them to select their new franchise QB Joe Burrow with the first overall pick this spring.
Cincinnati finished with a 6-10 against-the-spread mark and it missed the playoffs at -1200 odds. The Bengals finished with the worst record in the league thanks in large part to their miserable 0-8 mark in one-score games — they also went 0-4 in games decided by three scores or more. Cincinnati posted a 9-7 mark toward under totals after scoring just 17.4 points per game (3rd-fewest) while allowing 26.2 PPG (8th-most).
Cincinnati’s 2020 win total held steady at five and a half wins despite their dreadful two-win campaign last season. The Bengals fell below their 2019 win total with their 12th loss of the season to the Browns in Week 13. Cincinnati has +625 odds to end their four-year playoff drought after they reached the postseason five straight years to start Andy Dalton and Green’s careers. Entering the season, I have the Bengals power rated as the 26th-best team in the NFL (+10000 to win Super Bowl LV), as the 13th-best team in the AFC (+5000 to win the conference), and as the fourth-best team in the AFC North (+2000).
|Week||Opponent (spread if available)||Time|
|1||Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5)||4:05|
|2||@Cleveland Browns (+7.5)||8:20 (Thurs)|
|3||@Philadelphia Eagles (+7.5)||1|
|6||@Indianapolis Colts (+8.5)||1|
|10||@Pittsburgh Steelers (+7.5)||1|
|11||@Washington Football Team||1|
|12||New York Giants (-1)||1|
|15||Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5)||8:15 (Mon)|
Key Off-season Moves
Joe Burrow (QB)
Tee Higgins (WR)
D.J. Reader (DT)
Trae Waynes (CB)
Vonn Bell (S)
Mackensie Alexander (CB)
Andy Dalton (QB, Dal)
Tyler Eifert (TE, Jax)
Andrew Billings (DT, Cle)
Cordy Glenn (OT, FA)
John Miller (OG, Car)
Darqueze Dennard (CB, FA)
Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, FA)
B.W. Webb (CB, FA)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||5.5 (-125/+103)|
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Bengals underwent a huge change last off-season, hiring then 36-year-old Zac Taylor to take over for Marvin Lewis, who ran the show in Cincinnati for 16 seasons. The Bengals didn’t come anywhere close to their 2019 win total of five and a half wins thanks to their league-worst 0-8 record in one-score games. They finished with a dreadful -14 turnover differential last season, which certainly didn’t help their chances in close games. Taylor and his staff should be much more comfortable heading into their second season, and the added stability should help the Bengals perform better in close games this season.
A quarterback upgrade should also help the Bengals perform better in close games. Andy Dalton’s time in Cincinnati had run its course, and the Bengals will get a breath of fresh air in first overall pick Joe Burrow, who has the potential to be one of the league’s next great quarterbacks. Burrow is coming off the best single-season QB performance in FBS history, and he has the weapons in Cincy to keep the momentum going in Year One.
One of those weapons at his disposal will be the great A.J. Green, who missed all of last season because of an ankle injury. Green will be 32 years old this season, but he’s been one of the better receivers in the league when he’s been able to play over the last four seasons. Burrow will also get 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams to protect his blindside this season after he missed his entire rookie year because of a shoulder injury. The Bengals were also uncharacteristically active in free agency, upgrading their terrible defense from last season by signing DT D.J. Reader, CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackensie Alexander, and S Vonn Bell. Cincinnati’s 2020 win total didn’t move from last season even though this roster is clearly improved from a year ago.
The AFC North drew the NFC East and the AFC South for their interdivisional opponents this season, which means the Bengals have games against fellow potential bottom-feeders in the Jaguars, the Washington Football Team, and the Giants. They also drew the Dolphins and the Chargers as their extra AFC contests this season, which are both winnable contests. The Bengals will want to get to their sixth victory in Weeks 11-13 (@Was, NYG, @Mia) or they’ll have to pull off an upset or two in their final four games (Dal, Pit, @Hou, Bal).
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Bengals were more competitive at times last year than their 2-14 record would indicate, but they still had one of the league’s weakest rosters. Owner/GM Mike Brown actually went out and spent some money during free agency, but the Bengals should still have one of the weaker defenses in the league. Cincinnati added Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander to their cornerback corps with William Jackson. The Bengals will need these talented CBs to play up to their capabilities as former high draft picks.
The Bengals did get mostly better across the board, but Brown failed to upgrade Cincinnati’s offensive line, which was their biggest weakness from last season. Cincinnati will get 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams in the lineup at left tackle after he missed all of his rookie season, but they added just replacement-level OG Xavier Su’a-Filo this off-season to upgrade one of the league’s worst O-lines. I’m a big believer in first overall pick Joe Burrow, but he could have a difficult transition to the NFL if Williams can’t elevate the rest of this pedestrian offensive line.
The rest of the AFC North squads have schedules that are among the easiest in the league but, unfortunately, the Bengals can’t play themselves to help their strength of schedule. The Bengals have the 11th-toughest schedule based on 2020 win totals (per Sharp Football) with six difficult games coming in their division against the Ravens, the Steelers, and the Browns. The Bengals would do well to squeeze out two victories in the AFC North this season. Cincinnati also has two road trips to Philly and Indy, teams that are both lined at nine or more victories.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Joe Burrow: passing yards (3700.5), passing TDs (21.5), MVP (+15000)
Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (4045), passing TDs (25)
Best-Case Scenario: The last four QBs picked No.1 overall who were starters from Day One (Kyler Murray, Jameis Winston, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton) each surpassed 3700.5 passing yards during their rookie seasons.
Worst-Case-Scenario: The 21.5 passing touchdowns set for Burrow could be a little tougher to pass. The runners Kyler (20 passing TDs) and Cam (21) each fell below that mark while the more traditional QBs in Winston (22) and Luck (23) each squeaked over that mark.
Joe Mixon: rushing yards (1150.5), most rushing yards (+1200), OPOY (+5000)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (1255)
Best-Case Scenario: Mixon has a true breakout campaign behind an improved O-line in an offense that finally takes off with Joe Burrow getting the most out of his skill players.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Cincinnati’s offensive line continues to hold Mixon back in 2020, and this offense fails to fully take off with Burrow struggling to learn the ropes.
Tyler Boyd: receiving yards (950.5), most receiving yards (+5000)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (920)
Best-Case Scenario: Joe Burrow’s special connection with his slot WRs continues at the NFL level as Boyd remains the #1 receiver despite the return of A.J. Green and the addition of Tee Higgins.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Burrow spreads the ball around the field with his loaded cast of receivers, and a fully healthy Green gets back to being the #1 WR ahead of Boyd.
Best Bets and Leans
Be sure to check out all of our staff Best Bets for NFL Futures.
The Bengals are projected to finish with their fifth straight losing season after a five-year run with nine or more wins from 2011-15. Cincinnati has some hope to get back on track in the near future after landing franchise quarterback Joe Burrow with this year’s first overall pick. The Bengals are unlikely to pull off a six-win improvement to get to .500 in Burrow’s first season in a difficult AFC North, but a four-win improvement is certainly possible to get over their 2020 win total. Cincinnati finished with a miserable 0-8 record in one-score games, which wasn’t helped by their third-worst turnover differential of -14. Cincinnati will surely have better fortune in close games this season with improved quarterback play and a better defense.
The Bengals should still have a bottom-10 roster this season, but they did actively improve their squad this off-season with some key players returning from injury and by adding some talent through free agency and the draft. Owner/GM Mike Brown actually opened up the purse strings and brought in some much-needed defensive help, especially for their secondary. And Burrow will have 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams protecting him and the rookie will have A.J. Green catching passes after both Williams and Green missed all of 2019. The entire AFC North significantly improved from last season, but I’m expecting Burrow to give this organization a much-needed shot of energy both on and off the field so I’m leaning toward the Bengals going over five and a half wins in 2020.
Best Bets: Joe Burrow to win Offensive Rookie of the Year (+400, posted May 7)
Leans: Bengals over five and a half wins (-120, FoxBet)