By Will Pembroke, Debate & Discussion and Inside Xavier Sports Show Manager
The Cincinnati Bengals, reigning AFC Champions, are not only poised to make another run at the AFC crown but also could easily wind up back in the Super Bowl come February 2023.
Following a 27-24 AFC Championship victory over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bengals faced a veteran-laden Los Angeles Rams team in the Super Bowl which exposed their one weakness as a team: the offensive line.
Coming off of an NFL record-setting nine sacks allowed on the road in an AFC Divisional round matchup versus the Tennessee Titans, Bengals fans were well aware the team’s glaring fatal flaw.
In spite of what can only be described as a free run for pass rushers during this year’s NFL Playoffs, the Bengals came within three points of winning the Lombardi Trophy. Luckily for Burrow and all Cincinnati fans this offseason, the Bengals solved their fatal flaw.
As the clock struck four p.m. on March 16, Cincinnati wasted no time rebuilding a broken offensive line, declaring one of the first done deals of this year’s NFL free agency.
Former Buccaneers guard Alex Cappa was to sign a four-year, $40 million contract to fill in one of the guard spots up front. Soon after, former Patriots guard/center Ted Karras agreed in principle to a three-year, $18 million deal to become Joe Burrow’s new man in the middle.
If the news of Cappa and Karras’ arrival was not already music to fan’s ears, then the addition of star Dallas Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins on a two-year, $20 million deal certainly was. After agreeing to terms and holding a press conference with the team, Collins immediately declared himself as Burrow’s new “bodyguard.”
Following the emergence of Burrow as America’s new favorite quarterback, a record- setting season by rookie sensation Ja’Marr Chase and vast improvements by a formerly leaky defense, the Cincinnati Bengals were locked into the AFC playoff race in 2022.
By hitting the reset button on the NFL’s worst O-line, which allowed 70 regular season and postseason sacks combined this year, the Bengals have positioned themselves to repeat as the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl LVII.
In what is a much-improved AFC, the Bengals have done exactly what is necessary to stay towards the top of the conference and continue to be a threat.