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Analyzing the Cincinnati Bengals’ Best and Worst-Case Scenarios



The Cincinnati Bengals have been to two AFC title games and a Super Bowl over the past two seasons, so NFL predictions about the defending AFC North champions will trend toward the positive side in 2023. As Joe Burrow enters his fourth NFL campaign, the sky appears to be the limit in Cincinnati. But what are the Bengals’ best and worst-case scenarios next season?

Predicting the Best-Case Scenario for the Cincinnati Bengals’ 2023 NFL Season

If everything falls the right way for the Bengals in 2023, they could repeat the Chiefs’ accomplishments from last year: hoist the Lombardi Trophy while their quarterback wins the league MVP award.

Cincinnati will bring back almost every member of the starting offense that ranked fifth in efficiency a season ago, including the triumvirate of Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins. The team’s only significant changes on the offensive side of the ball will come at tackle, where Orlando Brown Jr.’s presence will shift Jonah Williams to the right side, and at tight end, where Irv Smith Jr. will replace Hayden Hurst.

If Chase can stay fully healthy after a fractured hip and labral tear cost him five games, and Smith can deliver on the promise that made him a second-round pick in 2019, the Bengals’ passing offense could become even more explosive than they’ve been in recent seasons.

Whether Cincinnati’s rushing attack can keep up with its pass game is an open question. But a best-case scenario involves Joe Mixon — surprisingly still on the roster after being mentioned as a cut candidate — thriving behind Brown, who was an outstanding run blocker in Kansas City and Baltimore.

MORE: 2023 Offense Rankings — Where Do the Bengals Land?

On defense, the 2022 Bengals managed a league-average pressure rate but posted just 30 sacks, the fourth-lowest total in the NFL. Finishing up front is a clear goal for Cincinnati’s defensive line, which should be aided by first-round pick Myles Murphy.

In the back end, the Bengals are relying on two inexperienced players — 2022 first-rounder Dax Hill and free agent addition Nick Scott — to replace safeties Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, whose veteran presence solidified the club’s secondary over the past three years. In a perfect world, Hill and Scott flourish under Lou Anarumo’s guidance and prevent Cincinnati’s defensive backfield from allowing chunk plays.

Of course, a best-case scenario wouldn’t be complete without a bit of luck. The Bengals have the second-best odds among AFC teams to make the playoffs next season, per DraftKings, but the conference is loaded, and the playoffs are often a crapshoot. It only takes one play — see Joseph Ossai’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of the AFC Championship Game — to end a season.

Nothing is stopping the Bengals from securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC, grabbing home-field advantage and a first-round bye, and storming through the playoff picture en route to a Super Bowl win. And given Cincinnati’s dramatic turnaround since Burrow arrived in town, that scenario is closer to an expectation than a dream.

Ja'Marr Chase (1) makes a catch against Kansas City Chiefs safety Bryan Cook (6) during the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Jan 29, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) makes a catch against Kansas City Chiefs safety Bryan Cook (6) during the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting the Worst-Case Scenario for the Cincinnati Bengals’ 2023 NFL Season

The worst-case scenario for the Bengals in 2023 includes an injury to Burrow, but that’s almost too easy. Nearly every team in the NFL would be in trouble if their starting quarterback went down, but the gap from Burrow to Trevor Siemian is wider than the starter-to-backup chasm for many other clubs.

It’s relatively difficult to imagine Cincinnati outright missing the playoffs, but it could happen. The AFC North is arguably the second-hardest division in the NFL. The Ravens and Browns are fully expected to compete for postseason slots, while the Steelers are fringe contenders who could fight for a Wild Card berth.

There is an outcome where the AFC North is even stronger than expected, forcing the Bengals to play six challenging games within the division. If Cincinnati struggles inside the division and drops a few other unexpected contests along the way, a scenario exists where they could fail to make the postseason.

Given how dominant the Bengals’ offense has been, a step back would likely include the team’s defense failing to launch. Hill and Scott prove incapable of replacing Bates and Bell. Chidobe Awuzie is slow to recover from his ACL injury, forcing second-round rookie D.J. Turner into the starting lineup. Cincinnati can’t get enough pressure up front, and their young secondary gets repeatedly cooked in the back end.

MORE: Cincinnati Bengals 2023 Schedule

Aside from a defensive catastrophe that results in the Bengals failing to make the playoffs, their worst-case scenario is probably a one-and-done postseason run. In that case, Cincinnati would have missed one of its best opportunities at a Super Bowl win by failing to deliver during Burrow’s rookie contract.

Things will get more difficult for the Bengals in the near future. Burrow will likely be extended soon — once his cap charges begin to increase, Cincinnati won’t have the financial flexibility to add veteran contributors as they have in each of the last four offseasons. Higgins is a free agent after 2023. Even if the Bengals extend him or deploy the franchise tag, he’ll never be as affordable as he is now, either.

The Bengals could also lose one or both of their coordinators next year. OC Brian Callahan interviewed with the Cardinals and Colts (twice) and was considered a potential candidate for the Broncos, while Anarumo conducted two interviews with Arizona. Cincinnati could start to experience a brain drain if either coordinator leaves in 2024.

Burrow has said that the Bengals’ Super Bowl window is his “whole career,” and in many ways, he’s correct. Cincinnati should regularly be in the championship conversation for as long as Burrow remains in stripes.

But their path to contention and ability to build one of the NFL’s best rosters will never be as uncomplicated as it is right now. If the Bengals fulfill one of their worst-case scenarios and fail to make it out of the first round of the playoffs, they’ll be starting at a much more challenging competitive landscape heading into next season.

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Why Did AD Mitchell Transfer? Explaining the WR’s Decision To Leave Georgia for Texas




Adonai (AD) Mitchell is one of the most explosive playmakers in college football. The junior wide receiver plays for the Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 Conference. He transferred from Georgia in 2022, where he was a contributor for two seasons. Mitchell is known best for catching four touchdowns in four College Football Playoff games for the Bulldogs.

But why did the future NFL Draft prospect transfer? And what was his reasoning behind his decision?

Why AD Mitchell Transfer From Georgia

Mitchell started 12 out of 15 games for the Bulldogs in 2021, catching touchdowns in both the playoff semifinal and championship games, and helped the team win their first title since 1980.

Although sidelined by an ankle injury for most of the 2022 season, Mitchell returned in time for the playoffs and caught touchdowns in both games, helping Georgia win back-to-back titles.

Shortly after winning the championship game against TCU, Mitchell transferred schools with his two-year-old daughter, Icylinn, in mind.

In less than a fortnight, he declared his plans to go to Texas. While he could have remained in Athens and basked in the applause as a Bulldog, he returned to Texas due to family reasons. Mitchell had spent most of his high school football career in Missouri City, Texas — close to Houston — until he relocated to Tennessee before his final year.

He closed the 900-mile distance to reunite with his family and join the explosive Longhorns offense. Being a draft-eligible junior made it an important decision.

Mitchell’s transfer announcement on social media included a photo of himself with Icylinn in his lap. She was holding a football, and both were dressed in Longhorns gear.

Now, instead of just FaceTime calls with his daughter, Mitchell can jump in the car for a two-hour drive for visits, which Norman Mitchell said happened often during the offseason.

“That’s honestly been the best part,” Mitchell said when asked about coming home to family. “When I was away, you know, I didn’t get that. I didn’t get that time with my mom. I didn’t get that time with my family and, most of all, my daughter.”

Mitchell joined a Texas team that was already well-stocked with receivers. His coaches were aware of his abilities, and Mitchell quickly sparked excitement among fans with an impressive one-handed catch during the spring game. He quickly brought that same energy on the field, racking up 78 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama in Week 2.

“He’s been in the fire, has been in the big games with big plays,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He brings instant credibility and backs it up.”

MORE: FREE Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

Standing 6’4″ with blazing speed, Mitchell is a legitimate home-run threat. But he is also a precise route-runner, able to line up inside and outside and attack both in the vertical passing and quick games.

Mitchell is incredibly gifted, and he’s made his way into our 2024 NFL Draft big board as a top-100 talent. He could make his way into the first round due to his unique blend of size and speed.

Ian Valentino is a Fantasy and Betting Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Ian’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @NFLFilmStudy.

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What We Know About the Colorado Safety




Colorado Buffaloes safety Shilo Sanders, son of head coach Deion Sanders, has been dealing with an unknown, undisclosed injury that has left his status up in the air against USC in Week 5. Will Sanders play this week, and if not, when will he return to action?

Shilo Sanders Injury Update

Sanders has been downgraded to doubtful to play against the eighth-ranked USC Trojans on Saturday, per Pete Thamel of ESPN. Sanders didn’t practice this week after being taken to the emergency room following last week’s loss against Oregon. The senior safety told Well Off Media he was urinating blood due to a kidney injury.

“I can’t say I didn’t play hard. I’m peeing blood right now,” Sanders said after getting off the plane. “I made a tackle, and I landed on my kidney or something. I got to go to the ER to get checked.”

Sanders was marked as questionable to play throughout the week, but on Saturday, it was revealed that he was not expected to play. Rodrick Ward is expected to start in his place.

MORE: Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

Colorado already was at a major talent disadvantage in this game. Star receiver and cornerback Travis Hunter is out with his own lacerated kidney, and USC is one of the most powerful offenses in the nation. Losing Sanders further complicates things for a team that ranks 111th in passing defense.

Sanders has racked up 26 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble in 2023. Previously an unheralded defender, the 6’0″, 195-pounder began his career at South Carolina before transferring to Jackson State when his father took the head coaching job. Sanders followed his father and his brother, Shedeur Sanders, to Colorado.

Shilo has emerged as a potential 2024 NFL Draft prospect in his own right. He has another year of eligibility, so there’s no guarantee he’ll come out this year.

We’ll continue to update this article as new information emerges.

Ian Valentino is a Fantasy and Betting Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Ian’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @NFLFilmStudy.

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Can Miami Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle Continue Dominance of Buffalo Bills?




MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Jaylen Waddle is back for the Miami Dolphins, and not a moment too soon.

The third-year wide receiver cleared the concussion protocol Thursday, which is a big boon to a Dolphins receiver room that is banged up. River Cracraft is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, and Erik Ezukanma has a neck issue.

But the No. 1 reason why it’s important for the Dolphins to have Waddle on the field Sunday? Except for one terrible drop in the Dolphins-Bills playoff game in January, he kind of owns Buffalo.

From the current NFL standings to team depth charts to coverage of every game in the 18-week NFL schedule, we have all the news from around the league to keep you up to speed!

Miami Dolphins’ Jaylen Waddle Set To Make His Return

In four regular-season games against the Bills, Waddle has 17 catches for 293 yards and a touchdown. His 17.2 yards-per-catch average against the Bills in his career is the second-highest among any teams he’s faced at least twice (Chargers, 18.2).

In two 2022 regular-season games last year, he was electric.

Waddle went 3-114-1 in the Dolphins’ Week 14 loss and 4-102-0 in their Week 3 win.

Quick math: That’s an absurd average of 30.9 yards per catch and 17.4 yards per target.

Now add that to a Dolphins offense that dropped 70 points a week ago against the Broncos, and the scoreboard operator at Highmark Stadium would be advised to get a good night’s rest on Saturday.

“Only time will tell, I guess,” Waddle said this week. “But 70 is historical. It’s a tribute to the guys that we’ve got that are unspoken heroes that really don’t get too much glory that go out there and play.”

What does Waddle’s return mean for Tyreek Hill?

“Guys can’t double then,” Hill said. “Teams aren’t able to just put me as the key focal point. You have two guys on the same team who can do literally the same thing. It’s more dangerous when we’re both on the field.“

So good luck to cornerback Christian Benford, who has allowed 15 yards per completion and a 99.3 passer rating this year. Plus, the Bills’ secondary is banged up, with safety Jordan Poyer (15.7 yards per completion, 113.5 passer rating) dealing with a knee injury.

But don’t sleep on the Bills’ defense, which has been opportunistic in 2023.

MORE: Miami Dolphins Depth Chart

They lead the NFL in opponent passer rating (54), interceptions (7), and turnovers (9) but are 16th in yards per pass allowed (6.4).

“You want to talk about making people pay for their mistakes,” Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said this week. “If they get their hands on any sort of ball, they are turning the ball over. It’s a very, very important thing to be good at.”

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Adam Beasley is Pro Football Network’s Director of Original Content and Brand Development. You can read all of Adam’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @AdamHBeasley.

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