7-round Mock Draft for the Cincinnati Bengals

The lead-up to the 2022 NFL Draft has been a very weird and unfamiliar experience for Bengals fans. In recent years, we’ve started looking deeply at the draft by mid-November or earlier. What’s the point in waiting when they have virtually no chance to make the playoffs? Back in the day we usually got to wait until at least December or early January, but having to wait until February this year left a lot of us playing catch up. The Bengals’ scouting department has had to play catch-up too due to a short offseason.

Now, we’ve all had roughly two months to play catch-up to this draft class. The Bengals did an excellent job addressing most of their needs in free agency, so they can have the luxury of focusing on quality prospects rather than needs. They’re still hoping to address minor holes like CB2, TE2, offensive line depth, wide receiver depth, and defensive line depth. But, the nice thing is there are no glaringly obvious holes like they’ve had to address the last few years. You can thank their success in free agency and the draft over the last few years for that.

My original plan for doing a 7-round mock for the Bengals ahead of tonight’s draft was to do it on my YouTube channel. Unfortunately, a particularly noisy fridge is destroying any hope of great audio quality, so we’re going to break down my selections as I imagine myself in the position of Bengals’ general manager. The following picks are made in the spirit of the Bengals’ particular need vs BPA ratio that they tend to follow. But, the final say is entirely what I think would be the best for the team. Think of it as an educated wish list. 

I also plan on releasing a full first-round mock of what I think all 32 teams will do later today. You might want to check that out too because it’s quite possible I will have a different selection for the Bengals in that article than in this one. But, without rambling any further, lets jump into these selections.

Using Pro Football Focus’s 7-round mock draft simulator as a basis for these selections, here is what we’re looking at initially.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like PFF’s simulation was terribly kind to me as Tyler Linderbaum went two picks ahead of us at 29 to the Chiefs. They, of course, received that pick from the Dolphins for Tyreek Hill. I was also hoping to get guys like Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam and Zion Johnson, who are also gone. According to PFF, the best prospects available are wide receiver Skyy Moore, safety Lewis Cine and nose tackle Travis Jones. This would be a classic situation where trading down would be in the Bengals best interest. But, will they? I doubt it. I kind of like guys like Arnold Ebiketie, Nik Bonitto, and David Ojabo here. But, I can’t lie. I already know who I’m going with.

I know he didn’t test particularly well at the combine, and I’m sure most of you reading can figure out who I’m talking about based on that alone. Personally, I’m enamored with Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon. PFF has him ranked as the 58th best prospect in this draft. But, the way I see it, he has shown everything you need to succeed at the cornerback position.

Sure, he might need a bit of time to adjust to NFL speed. Luckily, the Bengals have a great No. 1 corner in Chidobe Awuzie and a serviceable No. 2 option in Eli Apple. Don’t get me wrong, picking Gordon at No. 31 comes with the intention of him taking Apple’s spot this season. However, it doesn’t HAVE to be Week 1. For that reason, I’m cool with betting on the upside. He won’t be available when we pick again at 63. So, ideally, we’d trade down. But, in this scenario I’m just going to take him.

Moving along to pick 63 in the second round, I’m still having pretty terrible luck with who is available.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

I was definitely hoping to see someone like EDGE Nik Bonitto, tight end Trey McBride, or defensive lineman Logan Hall. Nope. They’re all gone. Yikes. The two remaining players I’m interested in are Kingsley Enagbare, the pass rusher from South Carolina and Dylan Parham, the interior lineman from Memphis. I’m really of a split mind on this one but I think I’m going to go with the guy who can bolster the Bengals’ pass rush.

I’m really confident in Joseph Ossai going forward. But, you can never have enough pass rushers, and Enagbare was one of the best in the country at that particular role. My issue with Parham is I feel he’s a bit of a project and after taking Jackson Carman last year I’d rather not risk Joe Burrow third season to more speculation on the offensive line. Not to mention, I like the depth that exists at interior OL more than I do the depth at edge. So, I’m taking Enagbare with pick 63.

Now we’re moving along to pick 96 and, would you look at that! There wasn’t a massive run on players I’m looking for!

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson did go to the Titans at 90. But, to be honest there’s another Kentucky prospect I’m eyeballing with this pick. I’m tempted to go with Virginia tight end Jelani Woods here because he has so much upside. At some point, I’m hoping to find a tight end to compliment Hayden Hurst because I REALLY don’t want to rely on Drew Sample, if possible. But, I think finishing the rebuild of this offensive line is imperative… especially going into Joe Burrow’s third season.

I’m picking up Luke Fortner here because, quite frankly, I’ve heard him described as a poor man’s Tyler Linderbaum. As a Kentucky fan, I can vouch for his consistency at the position. Personally, I’m 100 percent into the idea of taking a chance on him. If he’s ready to start right away, great! If not, Ted Karras can hold down the center position for now and Quinton Spain is still available to come back and solidify that left guard spot.

We’re moving along to the depths of the fourth round now and, once again, we’re back to slim pickings.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

After losing Auden Tate to the Falcons, I think the Bengals could really use a really good fourth option at wide receiver. Perhaps I’m weird in thinking that Stanley Morgan Jr might actually be able to step into that role quite nicely. But, it might also be worth adding some talent. That’s why I’m looking at Velus Jones Jr from Tennessee.

He’s likely a developmental slot receiver at the NFL level, but that’s ok for me. Tyler Boyd only has two years left on his contract and this wide receiver room is about to get EXPENSIVE with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins needing re-upped around that time. Jones could be a limited contributor for now and, perhaps, when the time is right, provide an insurance policy in case Boyd decides to move on in a few years.

All that said, the biggest reason I’m excited for Velus is his prowess as a kick returner. Y’all remember relying on Darius Phillips and Stanley Morgan to return kicks last season? Yeah. Muffs cost us a win against the 49ers. Darius Phillips is gone. Brandon Wilson, while reliable as a returner, doesn’t really add much value to the team at his natural position of safety. Picking Velus in the fourth round might be seen as a bit of a reach but I really don’t feel like he’ll still be there at 174. I’m making an executive decision. Let’s go.

As we move to the fifth round, it’s still looking pretty slim. I wouldn’t call this my ideal mock for the Bengals at all, but it is quite possible the real draft this weekend could play out like this.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Based on the list of available players I’m seeing here, I think most Bengals fans would want me to pick up nose tackle Curtis Brooks from UC. Personally, I don’t really get that. Definitely not in the fifth round. Yeah, sure, he’s athletic and tested very well. But, if the Bengals are going to pick up a defensive tackle I think they would probably be better off targeting a 3-tech rather than nose tackle. They’re pretty set with DJ Reader and Josh Tupou right now. Not to mention, it’s really hard to project what Brooks’ role would be in the NFL. Maybe if we see him again in the sixth round I’ll consider it but I think I’ll pass in the fifth.

I’m actually going to throw  a bit of a curve ball here. I’m going to take Brian Robinson Jr, the running back from Alabama. Why? Quite frankly I’m not a fan of Samaje Perine. I love Chris Evans, but Robinson provides a completely different set of skills than Evans. Notably, PFF calls him the best short-yardage bruiser in the draft class. Y’all remember when the Bengals couldn’t pick up one yard on three tries on the last drive of the Super Bowl? Pepperidge farm remembers. And Pepperidge farm ain’t gonna let that happen again. So sue me, I’m taking a running back.

Wouldn’t you know it, the sixth round is actually shaping up the way we want! If only the earlier rounds were like that.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Curtis Brooks is still here! I’m not going to lie though I’m still wondering about the value of taking a nose tackle, especially when the Bengals still need to shore up their offensive line depth. I’ve got my eye on offensive lineman Zachary Thomas here. He can play all five positions as a rotational backup if need be. Is that enough promise to betray all the UC fans who are probably screaming at me to take Curtis Brooks? Yes, I think it is. Sorry guys, I just think nose tackle is the one position we’re set at on the defensive line. Why take the chance with poor offensive line depth again when it literally cost us the Super Bowl? I’m going with Zachary Thomas here.

The Bengals actually have two picks in the seventh round this year and I think a lot of Bengals fans are wanting to use one of those picks on PUNT GOD Matt Ariaza. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s no longer on the board.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

Honestly, that’s fine with me. Ariaza might be really good. But, it seems like the Bengals’ coaching staff really likes Drue Christman. We can probably find some solid competition for him in UDFA. Also, Curtis Brooks is gone too. Sorry, UC fans. 

Perhaps this is another curveball but I’m actually going to take Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy here. I was also thinking about Miami safety Bubba Bolden here but the Jags took him at the top of the round. The reason I’m thinking Purdy here is because.. let’s face it… Brandon Allen is a limited quarterback. He’s probably the best backup we’ve had since AJ McCarron, but that’s not saying much. He’s solid with his legs but he has accuracy issues and, for that reason, I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t have some real camp competition this year.

Years ago I thought Purdy was going to be a stud of a future NFL Draft prospect. He never quite hit that level, but I still think he’s really talented. I think he’ll adjust to the NFL extremely well and should be the kind of guy who can give you 70 percent of what Joe Burrow gives you in case Burrow has to miss time for any reason.

Finally, we’re moving to the Bengals’ final pick at 252 overall in the seventh round. Essentially, you’re just getting a head start on undrafted free agency here, so let’s see who is left.

PFF.com 7-round Mock Draft Simulator

I wanted to bring in a piece to compete with Drew Sample earlier in the draft. Unfortunately, the way things shook out, there were other great options available when I had the opportunity to take guys I really wanted like Colorado State’s Trey McBride, Virginia’s Jelani Woods, or Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely. So, how about we go get Iowa State’s Chase Allen? He’s not going to wow you in any particular category but he’s a decent blocker and a decent underneath receiving option. At the very least, as I said, he can give Sample a run for his money. Plus, we can pair him back up with Brock Purdy.

So, there you have it. A full seven-round mock draft for the Bengals. I have no idea what they’re actually going to do for most of the draft. So, maybe it will be fun to go back and compare my mock to the actual results after the draft is completed. 

Hopefully I have a less noisy fridge by then and we can take the party back to YouTube. But, for now, this is what we’re working with and these are some of the players I think would make sense for the Bengals in 2022.

Week 18 NFL Power Rankings

week 18 nfl power rankings
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Week 18 NFL Power Rankings are a lot less chaotic than in previous weeks. But, we still saw some massive results this week changing everything we thought about the power structure in the NFL. We’re going to get that into all the risers and fallers this week as we start to really separate the playoff teams from the teams that will be sitting on the couch in a couple of weeks.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

Last week: 32

Ever heard of that boost that happens for a football team when an interim coach the players like takes control? Doesn’t seem to be the case for Darrell Bevell. Trevor Lawrence imploded in the second quarter to essentially hand the Patriots a red carpet straight to the endzone. The Jaguars are one loss away from clinching the No. 1 seed for the second straight year. It would be the eight time in NFL history a team has “earned” the No. 1 pick two years in a row. Can they go for an NFL record three next year?

31. New York Giants (4-12)

Last Week: 30

The New York Giants may not have the second worst record in the NFL. But, for the purposes of the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings, they absolutely are the second worst team in the NFL. They put up 161 yards of rushing against the Bears and STILL had virtually no offense. Mike Glennon is clearly not the answer. Neither is Daniel Jones. Neither is Joe Judge. I don’t even know what to do at this point.

30. Detroit Lions (2-13-1)

Last Week: 29

Someone go console the football fans in Jersey. The Jets are… the Jets, and the Giants appear totally rudderless. It was kind of cool to see Jake Fromm get his first NFL start. But, he turned out to be just as much of a disaster as Mike Glennon as he finnished with a 19.5 passer rating. Yikes. Mike Glennon ended up playing the savior role and, honestly, didn’t look much better. As bad as Daniel Jones was, this is a new level of Hell.

29. New York Jets (4-12)

Last Week: 31

I’m not trying to act like the Jets almost beating a good team is as good as actually winning a game. But, when the franchise is in the state it currently is… I think you have to take what you can get. The Jets have shown some progress in Robert Salah’s first season and Zach Wilson even had a decent game this week. Maybe a glimmer of light in Jersey B?

28. Carolina Panthers (5-11)

Last Week: 28

Is there any relief for Panthers fans watching their team play a division rival, who is currently fighting for their playoff lives, close? Probably not when the quarterback they banked their hopes on this year threw the game away in the redzone only down by a touchdown and a 2pt conversion with 54 seconds left in the game. Ouch. I don’t think firing Matt Rhule is the right move. But, I understand why people are starting to feel that way.

27. Washington Football Team (6-10)

Last Week: 25

It’s been over for Washington for a while now. It’s really a shame the season is going to end with a whimper for a team we briefly thought might be able to take down Dallas for the NFC East title. But, to have the first half they had against a division rival only to be shut out and lose in the second half is rough.

26. Houston Texans (4-12)

Last Week: 23

It was a nice little run the Texans went on there for a minute. But, that shouldn’t distract from the fact that this is a bad football team. And, it won’t distract me in their placement in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings. Defensively, they had no answer for Trey Lance this week. Davis Mills was highly ineffective. They avoided disaster a few times. But, Mills’ interception on their first drive of the second half gave the 49ers a lead and momentum. It wasn’t even really a contest after that.

25. Seattle Seahawks (6-10)

Last Week: 27

The playoffs have been out of the question for the Seahawks for a while now. But, Seahawks fans still have to enjoy seeing Russell Wilson go absolutely ham on an opponent for the first time this season. It might be the last time he ever does it in front of the home crowd in Seattle. But, if it is, at least he’s going out with a bang.

24. Chicago Bears (6-10)

Last Week: 27

The Chicago Bears have now equaled their longest win streak in 2021 with back to back wins over the Seahawks and Giants. It’s kind of a shame they’re going to have to hit the reset button at the end of this season. A win over the Vikings next week would have them finish 7-10 and with some momentum going into next year. Unfortunately, it’s clearly broken. You have to blow it up.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1)

Last Week: 24

Welp, they did it. The Pittsburgh Steelers somehow overcame being a bad football team to somehow clinch yet another non-losing season for Mike Tomlin. Gotta give credit where credit is due. I didn’t think they had it in them. That’s not to say I think this is a good, or even average football team. But, they definitely deserve some separation from the Houstons and the Carolinas of the world.

22. Atlanta Falcons (7-9)

Last Week: 21

The Falcons’ slim playoff hopes came to an end this week. They looked like they had a chance against the Bills when they held a 15-14 lead at the half. But, they had virtually no offense in the second half. It was all right there in front of them. But, this is why no one really took the Falcons seriously as playoff contenders.

21. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

Last Week: 20

Mike Zimmer doesn’t want to see Kellen Mond this week. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t want to see anyone on the team right now if I was him. Despite pulling off the miraculous victory over the Packers earlier this season, the Vikings never felt like they stood a chance without Kirk Cousins in Lambeau. Had the Vikings made the playoffs, I think there’s a chance Zimmer could have earned another year. But, at this point I can’t see it. So, they stay low in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings.

20. Cleveland Browns (7-9)

Last Week: 18

The Cleveland Browns were eliminated from the playoffs this week before they ever got to play their Monday Night contest against the Steelers.

19. Denver Broncos (7-9)

Last Week: 19

18. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Last Week: 14

You knew it was coming. Hats off to the Miami Dolphins for clawing their way back from 1-7 to end up 8-7 and briefly in control of a playoff spot. But, those wins almost all came against awful teams. Well, that and the pre-decimated Ravens. But, they had to get through two playoff teams to actually finish the miracle off. The Titans reminded us all that the Dolphins were never serious contenders. It was nice while it lasted, but they’re moving back down in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings.

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

Last Week: 17

Technically, there’s also a chance for the Baltimore Ravens. A two percent chance, per Five Thirty Eight. BUT! And you’re really going to need to follow me on this one. If they beat the Steelers next week. All they need is for the Browns, Dolphins, Colts, and Chargers to lose. Although, considering the Colts play the Jaguars… yeah, that’s why the two percent.

16. New Orleans Saints (8-8)

Last Week: 22

So you’re saying there’s a chance? Yes. If the Saints beat the eliminated Falcons this week, which they should. And, if the Rams beat the 49ers, which they should. I would argue they should be the favorites for the No. 7 seed in the NFC. But, I get it. The 49ers hold the inside track, so technically they’d have to be the favorite. Which is kind of insane, when you think about it. The Saints are my No. 16 team in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings and the 49ers are at No. 10. But, it seems to me like the Saints are more likely to finish things out.

15. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)

Last Week: 16

Despite all the odds this season, the Las Vegas Raiders are right on the verge of making the playoffs. Right now, they sit on the outside looking in behind the Chargers. Luckily, they play the Chargers next week. It’s a win and you’re in scenario for both teams. Essentially a play-in game for the playoffs. Who saw that coming after all their mid-season drama?

14. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

Last Week: 13

I’ll be damned, but Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles found a way to make the playoff this year. I thought they were doomed after starting the season 3-6. But, they’ve done a hell of a job turning things around. They almost let things slip out of their grasp against Washington this week. But, now they have the opportunity to walk into the playoffs on a 5-game win streak. That’s the stuff of nightmares for opposing teams.

13. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

Last Week: 5

If Jonathan Taylor and a mistake-free Carson Wentz aren’t enough to overcome a mistake prone Raiders team, I don’t know what is. The Colts’ earned their way into the top 5 by pulling off win after win under incredible circumstances. But, the facade comes loose a little when they don’t find a way to win. The game was more important for Las Vegas than Indy. But, the Raiders might be the exact kind of team the Colts are going to need to be able to beat in the playoffs. Not a great look.

12. Arizona Cardinals (11-5)

Last Week: 15

That’s more like it, Cardinals. I was getting worried there for a minute because they weren’t overcoming injuries. I know it’s difficult, but great teams find a way to do it. I’m still a bit skeptical because they didn’t exactly win in convincing fashion down the stretch. But, they made poor clock management by the Cowboys work in their favor. Sometimes you have to grind a win out against a tough opponent.

11. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

Last Week: 12

Despite all their chargering, the Chargers still managed to wax the floor with an opponent they desperately needed to beat to stay relevant in the playoff discussion. They made it happen and now have the inside track to a playoff spot. Sort of. They’ll need to beat the Raiders next week or be eliminated. But, if the playoffs ended today they’d be in.

10. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)

Last Week: 10

I already mentioned how I actually expect the Saints to knock the 49ers out of the playoffs next week. But, next week isn’t here yet. This is the Week 18

 NFL Power Rankings. And, as of Week 17, the 49ers are still rocking. I don’t know if they can hold on next week against the explosive Rams. But, the 31-10 drubbing of the Rams earlier this season is what kicked off this run the 49ers have been on. So, you never know! If the 49ers can pull it off, they’re as dangerous as anyone.

9. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

Last Week: 9

The Tennessee Titans are currently the AFC’s No. 1 seed. So, why are they ranked below other AFC teams you ask? Well, I’m still not sure what we’re going to see from the Titans when the competition starts roaring back up in the playoffs. If Derrick Henry comes back and gets right back to where he left off, this team will probably win the Super Bowl. But, it seems more likely that Henry might need some time to adjust back to football shape. If that’s the case, I doubt the Titans make it far in the playoffs. Regardless of how badly they beat the pretender Dolphins.

8. New England Patriots (10-6)

Last Week: 8

Wow! Talk about an absolute clinic! Bill Belichick wrote the book on how to take advantage of an inferior opponent this week! Mac Jones may not have thrown for a billion yards, but he did throw for three touchdowns and no interceptions. If this is a bounce-back game for the Patriots, the rest of the AFC should watch out over the next month. But, I’ve still got the back-to-back losses to the Bills and Colts fresh on my mind. I’ll take this Jaguars game as a sign they’re still worthy of being in the top 10.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

Last Week: 6

Normally, I don’t knock teams down after a win. But, the Bucs have looked vulnerable in recent weeks. After losing 9-0 to the Saints a few weeks ago, now almost losing to the Jets? And then that whole debacle with Antonio Brown. Everyone on the planet knew that was going to blow up in their face eventually. Then again, it’s tough to call them out for much when they’ve built such a successful team in Tampa over the last two seasons. Still, it’s not the best look. The Bucs look vulnerable heading into the playoffs.

6. Buffalo Bills (10-6)

Last Week: 7

The Bills struggled to put a vastly inferior Atlanta Falcons team away this week. I’m not going to knock them down in the Week 18 NFL Power rankings. But, I’m not going to give them a boost, either. They’re the last division leader in the AFC to not clinch their division yet. Granted, none of those other AFC teams are competing with a second place team as strong as the Patriots. I still think they’re one of the best teams in the AFC, but I also think there’s some vulnerability that concerns me.

5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

Last Week: 4

Dak Prescott tried his damndest this week, but Mike McCarthy’s poor clock management was too much to overcome. All in all, I think the Cowboys played a decent game. I have no hesitation to say there’s no reason they can’t beat the Cardinals in a playoff rematch. But, they’ll have to overcome the little mistakes. I still think this is a great team. But, I’m wondering if they’re quite championship caliber.

4. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

Last Week: 3

I said I don’t normally do this earlier in this article. Yet, here I am knocking a team down in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings yet again despite a win. Why? Matt Stafford worries me. There’s no question he’s talented enough to contend for a Super Bowl and the Lions were holding him back. But, his penchant for absolutely devastating turnovers have me worried about what happens when this team plays great teams every single week. The Ravens were up 16-7 at the beginning of the fourth quarter and it was almost entirely because Stafford kept turning the ball over.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Last Week: 11

Those of you who follow my ATB coverage and my YouTube Channel know it fills me with joy to have an excuse to put the Cincinnati Bengals up this high in the Week 17 NFL Power Rankings. But, you also know I strive for analytical objectivity. Objectively, the Cincinnati Bengals stamped their name in the book of Super Bowl contenders this week with a clutch victory over the top team in the AFC this week. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase are absolutely lethal together at all levels of the sport.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

Last Week: 1

Despite losing to the Cincinnati Bengals this week, I still think the Kansas City Chiefs are a hell of a football team. I would still put my money on them if they see the Bengals again in the playoffs. I don’t want to hear the excuses about the refs, because it’s a load of crap. But, I have to admit the Chiefs were one or two properly executed plays away from winning that game. They’re still super dangerous. I would be wary of counting this team out.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Last Week: 2

The Green Bay Packers are the only team in football without a damn thing to fight for in Week 18. They took care of business against Sean Mannion’s Vikings this week and left no doubt about who the best team in the Week 18 NFL Power Rankings is. Davante Adams had another huge game. Aaron Rodgers was damn near perfect. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon were a fearsome two-headed beast in the backfield. Show me a major weakness on this team, other than some of their long-term injuries.

Week 11 Bengals Position Grades

Week 11 Bengals Position Grades
Chris Unger – Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals got back on track after their bye this week with a 32-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. The Week 11 Bengals position grades were a bit tough to formulate because it wasn’t a perfect performance by any means. But, all around, it was good enough to get the job done. It’s really hard to knock a team, or a unit, when they achieve that goal.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: B+

It wasn’t the most spectacular game in the world for Joe Burrow. But, at the end of the day, he played well enough to lead the offense to 30+ points. He did a pretty good job recognizing when he needed to run the ball and finding the lanes to do so effectively.

He only managed to throw for 148 yards. But, he completed 20 of his 29 passes and found Ja’Marr Chase for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. From that point on, the Bengals looked fully in control of the game and the result wasn’t in doubt.

So, you could describe Burrow’s performance this week as… unspectacular, but clutch. He also avoided throwing any interceptions for the first time since week 4, and only the third time all season. When Joe Burrow plays concise, efficient football… the Bengals tend to win. But, I can’t give him an ‘A’ in the Week 11 Bengals position grades with the limited production he had.

Running Back grade: B+

By the end of the day, Joe Mixon looked like a huge reason why the Bengals won this game. It’s not necessarily false, but it took him a while to get to that point. In the first half, he was only averaging 2.5 yards per carry. Not nearly good enough for the Bengals to win. But, he really got it going in the second half, finishing with 123 yards on the ground and 4.1 yards per carry. Furthermore, his two touchdowns came at critical turning points in the game.

Samaje Perine wasn’t nearly as effective, however. He totaled 1.5 yards per run on the day. He wasn’t really needed because Joe Mixon managed to get things going in the second half. But, Perine had a mostly quiet day. Ultimately, he made more special teams tackles on the day than first down plays.

It was nice to see Chris Evans back in the lineup, though. He only caught one pass for seven yards on a drive that ended in a punt. But, he was occasionally brought in on certain packages that gave the Bengals a much more dynamic look on offense than they had without him.

Wide Receiver grade: C+

It seems like every receiver on the roster crawled out of the woodwork to get involved in the passing game this week. It was particularly encouraging to see Tyler Boyd get featured so much after struggling to make an impact against the Browns. Tee Higgins made some plays too, so it felt like the Bengals didn’t need an all-time performance from Ja’Marr Chase to develop a solid passing attack.

That said, the passing attack still never really developed. Receivers struggled in contested catch situations all night. Yeah, you could make the argument that a lot of the targets were broken up by good defensive play or were difficult to catch. But, there were way too many missed opportunities from this unit.

It’s really a testament to the Bengals’ offensive potential that they managed to put up 30+ points despite their highly touted receiving corps receiving such an average grade in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Tight End grade: C-

Drew Sample and CJ Uzomah were largely absent in the passing game this week. Although, Uzomah did convert a key third down late in the third quarter. The ensuing drive eventually led to the Bengals taking their first double-digit lead of the game.

However, the real impact in this game from the tight ends was the blocking. Drew Sample was excellent as a lead blocker. He did well in both the H-back role and simply blocking from the tight end spot. You could make the argument that Joe Mixon probably wouldn’t have gotten going in the second half if Sample didn’t lay down some really strategically advantageous blocks.

Offensive line grade: C+

Don’t look now, but the Bengals’ offensive line has been doing a really great job lately of not committing penalties. Quite often, offensive line penalties can be some of the biggest momentum sucks over the course of a game. So, as much as you can point out certain flaws in their game, you have to respect their discipline.

That said, Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff got worked all day. Joe Burrow was constantly dealing with pressure in his face and it was largely due to problems coming from the tackles. That’s particularly problematic because the tackles are supposed to be the ones we can rely on this year.

Joe Burrow’s fumble on the first drive happened almost entirely because Riley Reiff couldn’t handle Yannick Ngokoue. The offensive line’s Week 11 Bengals position grades are largely representative of those issues.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: B+

The way Sam Hubbard closed out that game on the Raiders’ final meaningful drive was a work of art. To just completely, single handedly turn the Raiders’ chances on their heads and break their hearts with back to back sacks and a fumble recovery. Oh by the way, Trey Hendrickson was the one who forced the fumble. 

The Bengals only came down with two sacks on the day. But, they mostly kept Josh Jacobs and Kenyon Drake in check. There were still a few issues with missed tackles on the day. But, they made the ones they needed to. This unit’s Week 11 Bengals position grades are much improved from last week because they were mostly where they needed to be when they needed to be there. It was a huge step up from the last two games.

Linebacker grade: C

Another unit that, on the whole, you could argue largely did their job when they needed to, was the linebackers. That is, other than in coverage. It was painfully obvious the Bengals were missing Akeem Davis-Gaither, their best linebacker in coverage. Darren Waller finished the day with 116 yards on seven receptions.

In fact, the Raiders needed only three plays to put together their only touchdown drive of the game. How did they do it? Back-to-back 20-yard passes to Darren Waller and another one to Fabian Moreau, who Logan Wilson completely lost in coverage. It was a weakness the Raiders probably should have exploited more. Luckily they didn’t, but it could be an issue the Bengals need to keep an eye on going forward.

Cornerback grade: A

Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple had one of their best games of the season this week. There were a few bad plays sprinkled in here and there during the game. So, it wasn’t perfect. But, Derek Carr only completed five passes for 50 yards to wide receivers this week. One of those was a weird 20 yard pass to Zay Jones on broken coverage. But, everything else went to Hunter Renfrow, who only averaged 7.5 yards per catch.

Then, there was Eli Apple’s beautifully timed interception. It was like a gift from the football gods. I remember it in my head as though I watched it in slow motion. Did Eli Apple really just make one of the most clutch defensive plays I’ve seen from the Bengals all year?

Yes, yes he did. The Bengals capitalized on that interception with a touchdown when the Raiders had brought the game within just a couple of drives earlier. For as much crap as I’ve given him all year, I have to give him a shoutout in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Safety grade: B

What the hell is going on with Jessie Bates this year? Is his contract situation so distracting that he can’t play coverage? Part of the reason for Darren Waller’s big day was Jessie Bates’ lack of coverage. Going into this season, everyone in their right mind would have pegged him as the Bengals’ unquestioned superstar on defense. But, he hasn’t lived up to the hype even a little this year.

Vonn Bell was much more effective. He led the team in tackles and did a great job of cleaning up plays over top before they broke for long gains. A big reason why the Bengals only allowed one touchdown this week was because he played his role very well. It’s a big part of why I didn’t grade this unit lower in the Week 11 Bengals position grades.

Special teams grades: A+

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson joined Josh Scobee, Morten Andersen, Neil Rackers, and Sebastian Janikowski as the only kickers in NFL history to convert three 50+ yard kicks in a game. I don’t care if it happened in a closed stadium. That’s still damn impressive and was a huge reason the Bengals won this game. Sure, the Bengals would have still won by 10 points even without those field goals.

But, until the fourth quarter, it was basically the only reason they were winning. What’s even weirder is he capped all that off by missing an extra point late in the fourth quarter. But, he made up for it by converting a 47-yard field goal. I don’t get it, but I’ll take it.

The Bengals’ special teams coverage was absolutely lethal this week. The Raiders regularly started behind the 20-yard line this week. It was partially due to questionable returning decisions, but it was also because the Bengals’ special teams was all over the ball carrier. Darrin Simmons’ unit gave the Bengals a really underrated advantage this week.

Coaching grade: A

This might not be a direct representation of how the coaches performed in the game itself. But, I just have to point out how nice it is to watch a Bengals team look ready and prepared for an opponent after a bye week. Too many times we watched Marvin Lewis coached teams in Cincinnati look like they were hoping for an extra week of vacation after byes.

The Bengals came into this game needing to be ready to go and ready to make an impact. They did just that and took back control of a playoff seed in the process.

You really have to give credit to Zac Taylor’s staff for putting together a really effective game script and executing it as well as they did. Lou Anarumo’s defensive unit, for all its flaws, came out and played a really solid game. Yes, they let Darren Waller shred them. But, they didn’t allow much else. The Raiders were only able to find the endzone once this week, and the offense went over 30. That’s a winning formula if there ever was one.

Patriots vs Browns Preview

Preview of the Patriots upcoming game against the Cleveland Browns. Both teams enter 5-4 hoping to cement their place in the playoff picture.

patriots vs browns preview
FOXBOROUGH, MA – OCTOBER 27: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns is sacked during a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

The Browns visit Gillette Stadium on Sunday with both teams looking to firmly assert their positions in the AFC playoff picture. The Patriots have recovered from a sluggish start to the season having won 4 of their last 5, including three in a row. With a win, the Patriots would stay a half-game back of the Bills for the division lead. While continuing to send shivers through the rest of the NFL.

The Browns are 2-3 in their last five and currently sit ninth in the AFC playoff picture. The Browns are hoping they righted the ship in a 41-16 thrashing of the Bengals last week. A win for them on Sunday would legitimize their aspirations of being a threat for the postseason and help wash away the taste of an inconsistent start to the season.

Going into the Game

The Pats put themselves in a poor spot early in the season and have been climbing out of it ever since. Every game has felt like a big one as the Pats face top teams week in and week out. They announced their return two weeks ago against the Chargers and ground out a hard-fought win last week against a feisty Panthers team. Another win Sunday would cement their status as an AFC top dog.

Offensive Questions

Despite the recent winning streak, the Pats are still facing questions. Outside of the two games against the Jets, the Pats offense is averaging 21.5 points which is further inflated by two defensive touchdowns over the past two weeks. Counterpoint? The Chargers and Panthers feature two of the best pass defenses in the NFL. Both rank in the top six in passing defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).  

Defensive Questions

The Pats defense has also feasted on weaker competition thus far this year. Against teams with 1-4 wins, the defense is allowing 12.8 points per game, 298.8 yards per game, averaging 2.4 takeaways per game, and have an opposing passer TD:INT ratio of 5:10. Against teams with 5 or more wins the numbers paint a different picture; 26.5 points per game, 392.3 yards per game, on average a single takeaway per game, and a TD:INT ratio of 7:3. While troubling, the defense has been jelling as of late and playing top-level ball since facing off against TB12 on Sunday Night Football.

Injuries

However you want to slice this game, injuries will play a part. Both teams will likely be missing key contributors. Running backs on both sides may be absent as Patriots Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson deal with concussions. The Browns will be without top backs Nick Chubb (COVID) and Kareem Hunt (IR-calf). The Browns are also facing injuries along their offensive line with starting RT Jack Conklin on IR. Starting C JC Tretter a late addition to the injury report this week with a knee ailment. In a repeat of previous weeks, this will be a knock ‘em down and drag ‘em out affair that promises to be low scoring and bring fans back to a brand of football rarely seen in today’s pass-happy league. Without further ado, the breakdown is presented in “Who has the advantage when…” format.

Patriots Pass the Ball

It’s been mentioned many times in this column but the Patriots’ passing game starts with protecting Mac Jones. Last week his play fell off as the Panthers got pressure. Successful defense starts with the marriage of pass rush and coverage and the Browns are exceptionally good at getting pressure. They have the second-best pressure rate in the league despite blitzing on only 20.8% of opponents’ dropbacks. Myles Garrett continues to be a complete force, pacing the team with 12.5 sacks. The team totals 27 sacks, also good for second in the league despite the next highest single sack total belonging to Jadeveon Clowney with 3.5 sacks.

The passing attack sputtered last week against an aggressive and fast front seven. The task doesn’t get any easier against a similar group in Cleveland. The Pats will be able to take advantage of the Browns’ aggressive linebackers in coverage with screens and play action. Multiple times against the Bengals last week, the Browns’ LB’s vacated the short intermediate middle field on hard play action. That is Mac’s comfort zone and if he can get cooking there, the offense will have success through the air. The Browns feature primarily zone coverage, something Mac and the Pats’ offensive concepts usually exploit. None of it matters if the hog mollies upfront doesn’t keep Mac upright.

Advantage: Patriots

Patriots Run the Ball

The Pats face a challenge before even stepping on the field Sunday as the health of both Harris and Stevenson is questionable for the game. If the two lead backs can’t go, the Pats would be left with Brandon Bolden and JJ Taylor to shoulder the load. According to reports, Stevenson has a better chance at returning than Harris. If the Pats do enter the game with only two active backs on the roster, it would not be surprising to see Jonnu Smith getting snaps out of the backfield ala Cordarrelle Patterson 2018.

The Browns feature the third-best run defense according to DVOA. The Pats rushing game had its best single-game output last week against a similar style defense. The Browns feature much more talent along their defensive front, which may make having success on the ground a much different task. The Pats would be wise to utilize some misdirection plays and counters with pulling guard action in hopes of taking advantage of the Browns’ aggressive style. This has the makings of running to keep the defense honest and set up play-action rather than running due to success.

Advantage: Browns

Browns Pass the Ball

It all starts with the tight ends in the Cleveland passing game. The two leading receivers in terms of catches on the Browns roster are tight ends David Njoku and Austin Hooper. This grouping is the engine that drives the Browns passing game. The Browns also utilize “13” personnel (one running back, three tight ends) at an absurd rate. They lead the league with 129 plays ran from “13” personnel, the next closest team, the Titans, has 52. Belichick has also been harping on the fact the Browns are one of few teams that regularly run tight end screens throughout the game. The Patriots are uniquely set to defend this grouping with utility safeties Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips skill sets provide the defense favorable matchups. Not many teams roster hybrids of this pedigree, something the Browns have been able to take advantage of but probably stops this week.

When the Browns do go outside in the passing game it isn’t big-name Jarvis Landry making the plays of late, it’s been second-year man Donovan People-Jones. All three of the Browns passing touchdowns to a wide receiver have been to People-Jones. Over his last three games, People-Jones has caught 11 of 14 targets for 257 yards with an average depth of target of 21 yards. He adds the explosive element to this Browns passing attack. My bet is J.C. Jackson draws People-Jones in man and zone coverages.

The loss of Chubb is also felt in the passing games as Mayfield’s numbers drop-off significantly without the talented back. Mayfield’s completion percentage is 73.5% with a TD:INT ratio of 4:0 with Chubb on the field. Without those numbers read 63.6% and 4:3. The loss of Chubb may have disastrous effects throughout all levels of the Browns offense.  

The health of the Browns offensive line is something the Pats should look to take advantage of. If Tretter can’t go, rookie Christian Barmore will very much be in line for another disruptive game. The loss of veteran Conklin places a lot of pressure on backup Blake Hance. Hance famously entered a playoff game a year ago after signing earlier in the week. That led to QB Baker Mayfield commenting on their introduction in the locker room before kickoff. While Hance may have had a nice introduction to Mayfield and the team, he may be in for a long introduction to Matt Judon. The Pats will want to bring pressure while keeping Mayfield in the pocket. The advantage here lies with the stellar front seven of the Pats and the veteran savvy of their defensive backfield. The Pats will look to capitalize on the inevitable interception.

Advantage: Patriots

Browns Run the Ball

It wasn’t long ago that the Patriots’ run defense was being lambasted for poor effort. Some may have wondered if Hightower had lost a step in his year away. Since, the Pats have held the Jets, Cowboys, Texans, and Panthers under 4 yards per carry. This improvement has revolved around the stellar play of Hightower and fellow linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley. The loss of Chubb provides a more significant challenge for the Browns offense against a suddenly surging Patriots defense.

Earlier in the year, the Browns found themselves in a similar situation against the Broncos. All third-string running back D’Ernest Johnson did in that matchup was run for 146 yards on 22 carries. The Browns continue to lead the league with 160.2 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry on the ground. Both are video game numbers. The game will come down to this matchup. If the Pats can limit the Browns rushing attack, their offense will be stuck in the mud throughout Sunday afternoon.

The Browns enjoy motioning a tight end or fullback into the backfield for a late numbers advantage. The Pats will need their big boys up front to eat up blocks without yielding ground to keep their linebackers clean to make the play. The Pats opened the game a week ago with a heavy 3-4 front that featured Lawrence Guy (315 lbs.), Carl Davis (320 lbs.), and Davon Godchaux (311 lbs). Expect the Pats to stay here while occasionally adding Barmore (311 lbs for those wondering) for jumbo packages.

Advantage: Patriots

Special Teams

The Pats have been rounding into form after a rough start to the season on special teams. Return man Gunner Olszewski is set to miss the game with a concussion. Last week this forced WR Jakobi Meyers into action on punt returns. JJ Taylor may be in line this week to field kicks.

The Browns have had an inconsistent season from their special teams’ units thus far.  K Chase McLaughlin has been solid but the Browns punting units have had issues. P Jamie Gillan ranks last in the league with a 41.8-yard average. The loss of core special teamer Demetric Felton (COVID) may lead a lane open for the Pats to exploit in the return game.

Advantage: Patriots

Coaching

Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski was in elementary school when Belichick was head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Join that with the lights-out play calling of Steve Belichick (lip licking aside) and Mayfield might not be the only one confused on Sunday. McDaniels has been calling smart and safe plans of late, something that should continue against a Browns defense that doubled their takeaway total last week against the Bengals.

Advantage: Patriots

Prediction

This game may be in the running for the quickest game played Sunday as long as the refs don’t get too involved (the Browns were flagged 10 times last week, average 7 per game). If there was ever a game to bet the under, it’ll be this one. Both teams will look to establish a healthy ground game without much luck while having to play small in the passing game. This is going to be a physical “do your job” 60 minutes and I’ll take Belichick’s boys every day of the week in that kind of matchup. Pats win 20-17.

Cincinnati Bengals Week 1 grades after beating the Minnesota Vikings 27-24

The Cincinnati Bengals won their home opener in an absolute nail biter against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. This game really shouldn’t have been as close as it was, with the Bengals holding a 21-7 lead late in the third quarter. But, questionable coaching calls and some sloppy play let the Vikings back in the game, requiring the Bengals to win it in overtime. A win is a win, and I’m sure the Bengals are happy to be 1-0. But, when it comes to the Bengals’ Week 1 grades, we’re going to have to go a bit more in depth…

Offensive Week 1 Grades

Quarterback grade: A-

Seeing Joe Burrow take the field just 296 days after his gruesome knee injury was awe-inspiring. It was even better seeing him finish the day with a 128.8 passer rating (two TDs, no INTs). What was not fun to see was him misfiring a sure-fire touchdown pass to Mike Thomas and nearly throwing an easy pick to Mackensie Alexander. Luckily, the Bengals still got in the endzone on the former, and Tyler Boyd managed to come down with the later.

Running Back grade: A+

Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine both averaged 4.4 yards per carry. They also ran the ball 36 times, which is a lot. But, 147 yards and a touchdown makes you think that was the right call. If there was anything to critique in this game, it was Mixon slipping on a crucial fourth down run on their own 30 yard-line. The broken play gave the Vikings momentum while the team was up 21-7 late in the third quarter, but perhaps they shouldn’t have been doing anything but punting in that situation in the first place. I won’t count it against their overall Week 1 grades, especially considering Mixon was instrumental on both of the Bengals’ subsequent scoring drives.

Wide Receiver grade: A

Ja’Marr Chase deserves an A+ all by himself for putting together the greatest rookie WR debut in team history. 5 catches for 101 yards, one of which went for a 50 yard touchdown, was the perfect way to back up everything that has happened since he joined the team. Drops? Gaffes? Trash talk? Throw it all out the window. This kid is special and the Bengals picked a winner.

Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd looked good too, albeit to a lesser extent. Higgins came down with a key touchdown that brought the Bengals level after going down early. Boyd came down with a great heads up play on a ball that should have been intercepted and set up Chase’s touchdown pass. But, the true star of this game was Chase.

Tight End grade: C+

The Bengals’ tight ends are, arguably, their worst position group. There’s probably not much to expect out of this unit in 2020. I’m not entirely sure why Drew Sample was left 1-on-1 with Danielle Hunter at any point. But, it happened, and that was part of the reason the pass blocking looked so bad today. That said, you still have to give the unit credit for CJ Uzomah doing well as a pass blocker. Also, being in the right place for the catch that set up Evan McPherson’s game-winning kick.

Offensive line grade: C+

On the whole, the offensive line looks drastically improved from last year. Riley Reiff had an absolute game against his former team. That’s a massive upgrade over Bobby Hart, who is currently sitting on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad. Jonah Williams looked steady, as always. Quinton Spain and Xavier Su’a-Filo looked like a competent guard tandem, which is a massive upgrade over Michael Jordan and Alex Redmond. The offensive line was a huge reason why Mixon and Perine did so well.

Still, the Bengals gave up five sacks and Burrow tweaked his ankle on one of those sacks. What the hell happened? Tre Hopkins, who is coming back from a torn ACL suffered in January, got absolutely worked all day. It’s unfortunate, because the Bengals were counting on him to be the same reliable center he’s been since winning the starting job in 2017. But, perhaps you can chalk it up to Week 1 jitters coming off a major injury. If he can go back to the Trey Hopkins we know and love, this offensive line can be a force and hopefully overcome their modest Week 1 grades.

Defensive Week 1 Grades

Defensive line grade: A

B.J. Hill looks like an absolute steal after the Bengals sent Billy Price to New York to acquire the services of the former 3rd-round defensive lineman. He tallied two of the Bengals’ three sacks of the day and played well against the run as well. Trey Hendrickson, despite totally whiffing on a tackle at one point, was an absolute force rushing the passer.

Same goes for Larry Ogunjobi, who the Bengals specifically brought in to replace Geno Atkins.

The Bengals’ defensive line was a huge part of why their first two seasons under Zac Taylor were unsuccessful. Arguably, just as much of a problem as the offensive line. This new unit appears to be a HUGE step up.

Linebacker grade: B+

For all the Bengals’ problems tackling on Sunday, you couldn’t tell if you were watching second-year linebacker Logan Wilson. In addition to causing some havoc as both a pass rusher and in coverage, he recorded 7 tackles and looked ultra-confident on each one. Germaine Pratt, on the other hand, had one really bad missed tackle. However, he also led the unit with 8 tackles, one of which came in the backfield. He also forced the game-changing fumble in overtime, so you have to give the linebackers’ Week 1 grades a boost on that alone.

Cornerback grade: C

Darius Phillips had a pretty good game for a player the Bengals refuse to start, for whatever reason. He allowed one reception in seven targets, but he stopped the catch short of the line to gain on a third down in overtime. Chidobe Awuzie looks like a solid addition. Mike Hilton wasn’t perfect in pass coverage, but he was a sure tackler and highly disruptive as a blitzer. Even Jalen Davis looked decent in the single snap he got as a run defender and one in coverage.

The glaring issue was Eli Apple, who showed why he’s on his fourth team in six years, despite being a top-10 draft pick. He whiffed on two tackles, one of which allowed a 24-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Adam Thielan. That touchdown was exactly the momentum swing the Vikings needed being down 21-7 with just over 2 minutes to go in the third quarter.

Safety grade: B+

Jessie Bates led the team in tackles (9) and did miss one, but on the whole he provided good support in pass coverage. It wasn’t exactly a signature game from the All-Pro, but there’s not a lot to nitpick either. Von Bell showed us why we will all remember his name in Cincinnati with another absolutely CRUSHING hit during the game. He was picked on a bit in coverage, but when he prepared to tackle someone they went DOWN.

Special teams grade: A

Darrin Simmons’ unit wasn’t exactly perfect defending returns, but the specialists were absolutely LETHAL. Evan McPherson comfortably nailed a 53-yard field goal to hold the Vikings’ comeback attempt at bay early in the fourth quarter. But, the truly exciting conversion came at the end of overtime after he initially made the 33-yard chip shot, got iced, and did it a second time to give the Bengals their first win of 2021. Say what you want about the ease of the kick, but Randy Bullock missed the same kick at the end of regulation in Week 1 last year.

Credit to Kevin Huber as well, who attempted 7 punts on the day and put three of them inside the 10, one of which was inside the 5. One of those punts was tipped and gave the Vikings decent field position, but the Bengals’ defense forced a 3-and-out so nobody is going to talk about it. It’s pretty much impossible to make this unit’s Week 1 grades anything lower than an ‘A’ due to the specialists alone.

Coaching grade: C+

A lot of people are going to complain about Zac Taylor’s decision to attempt a 4th down conversion in the third quarter on the Bengals’ own 30 yard line. It went about as badly as you could have expected, leading to a quick Vikings touchdown that let them back into the game. Personally, I didn’t hate the call when it was made because the Bengals’ offense was rolling at the time and you’d think Joe Mixon could have easily picked up one yard.

Well, he tripped, and the worst-case scenario happened. But, hindsight is 20-20 and Taylor was able to get his guys re-focused enough to come away with the win. Ultimately, that’s all that matters, and it gives the coaches’ Week 1 grades a bit of a boost.