2023 AFC North Division Preview: Cincinnati Bengals Remain The Class Of The Division

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The 2023-24 NFL season kick-off is almost here! OutKick is unveiling its team-by-team preview series. Last week, we covered the AFC and NFC West. This week, we’re tackling the AFC North and NFC North. We finished the NFC North on Thursday and now conclude the AFC North with last year’s champion, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals 2022-23 Record: 12-4

Cincinnati Bengals 2023-24 Win Total Over/Under: 10.5

Offseason Moves

The Cincinnati Bengals did something that they don’t normally do — they spent some money in free agency. The biggest addition was signing offensive tackle Orlando Brown from the reigning Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. One of the Bengals biggest weaknesses over the past few years has been their offensive line.

Defenses have sacked Joe Burrow 153 times in his 49 career starts (including playoffs). That’s over three sacks PER GAME. So, as OutKick’s Armando Salguero reported in March, “The Bengals have agreed to sign Brown, a four-time Pro Bowl tackle, to a four-year contract worth $64 million. The deal includes a signing bonus slightly over $31 million, which is the largest ever for an NFL offensive lineman.”

The Cincinnati Bengals need to do a better job protecting star quarterback Joe Burrow.
The Cincinnati Bengals need to do a better job protecting star quarterback Joe Burrow. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On the negative side, they lost both starting safeties Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. That duo was very strong on the backend of the Bengals defense and will be tough to replace. The team did sign free agent safety Nick Scott to try and pick up some of that slack.

They re-signed linebacker Germaine Pratt and extended rising star Logan Wilson.

They also used the NFL Draft to try and shore up some of their defensive weaknesses. In my opinion, they got a steal in Clemson edge rusher Myles Murphy at #28 overall. They got another really solid prospect, Michigan cornerback DJ Turner, in the second round. The defensive trend continued as the Bengals picked Alabama safety Jordan Battle in round three.

Season Outlook

The Cincinnati Bengals reached the Super Bowl two seasons ago and the AFC Championship last season. They addressed their biggest weakness — offensive line — by spending big for a franchise left tackle. Their still going to need to see improvement across the line, but that’s a great start.

Otherwise, they return most of the pieces of one of the league’s most explosive offenses. Joe Burrow is a perennial MVP candidate just now reaching his prime as he enters his fourth season. Ja’Marr Chase is one of the best offensive players in the NFL and Tee Higgins is one of the best #2 wide receivers in the league. Plus, they still have veteran Tyler Boyd to fill out a dangerous receiving corps.

Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Ja'Marr Chase form one of the best receiving trios in the NFL and are key figures in leading this team to a third-straight AFC North title.
Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Ja’Marr Chase form one of the best receiving trios in the NFL and are key figures in leading this team to a third-straight AFC North title. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Joe Mixon appears to be past his legal troubles and signed a discounted deal to remain with the team. Mixon said he was happy to take that discount to chase Super Bowls. That is what this team is built to do. And they have that attitude, too.

Losing Bates and Bell is a big hit to their defense, but they have safety Dax Hill who they took in the first round of the 2022 draft who needs to step up this season.

Overall, though, this is a Cincinnati team that doesn’t have many weaknesses. They are the class of the AFC North — having won back-to-back division titles — and I expect them to win the division for the third-straight season. The Bengals have to deal with an incredibly difficult schedule, but I have a hard time seeing them going under 11 wins unless they have serious injury problems.

Cincinnati Bengals Predicted Win Total: OVER 10.5

LISTEN: Dan Zaksheske and Geoff Clark Break Down The AFC and NFC North on a Recent Episode of “OutKick Bets”

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Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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