The Athletic recently polled five NFL front office executives to get their thoughts on the teams in the AFC.
Those executives ranked each team from 1 to 16. The rankings were then averaged by The Athletic to come up with the top teams.
The Cincinnati Bengals came at No. 6 — which is a bit surprising for the defending AFC champions.
Especially after the Bengals improved their biggest weakness (the offensive line) via three key free agent signing.
None of the executives ranked Cincinnati higher than No.3. And one executive had the Bengals ranked No. 9.
One of the executives explained his reasoning for not viewing Cincy as an elite AFC team. And his reasoning wasn’t that great.
From The Athletic:
FIVE DIFFERENT EXECS WENT INTO LAST SEASON PROJECTING CINCY AS ONE OF THE BOTTOM FEW TEAMS IN THE AFC.
THE BENGALS PROVED THEM WRONG, EVEN IF THE CONCERNS HEADING INTO THE SEASON WERE VALID.
THIS TIME, A DIFFERENT SET OF EXECS UPGRADED THE BENGALS’ CHANCES WITHOUT PUSHING THEM INTO THE AFC’S ELITE.
FOR THE SECOND SUMMER IN A ROW, HEALTH CONCERNS SWIRLING AROUND BURROW HAVE CLOUDED THE PICTURE.
LAST YEAR’S ACL REHAB HAS YIELDED TO A MUCH LESS COMMON APPENDECTOMY REHAB THIS TIME.
“THE O-LINE IS BETTER, BUT I DON’T THINK IT’S GOOD,” AN EXEC SAID. “THEY PUT A BAND-AID ON IT.
BURROW HAS THE APPENDIX. WHEN IS HE TAKING CONTACT? THAT IS A PAINFUL INJURY WITH A GUY WHO HAS A BAD OFFENSIVE LINE, SO I THINK IT’S OK TO HEDGE A LITTLE BIT.”
The “band-aid” comment is mind-boggling to me.
Could the Bengals’ offensive line be better?
Of course. But you could say that about most offensive lines in the NFL.
Cincinnati, however, greatly improved their offensive line by signing Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’el Collins.
I think that qualifies as more than a “band-aid”.
As for Joe Burrow and his appendix? That’s nothing more than a minor setback.
Burrow underwent a routine surgery early enough during camp that he should be fully recovered by game one.
Burrow has dealt with plenty of adversity during his football career, including returning from a torn ACL last offseason (that didn’t seem to slow the Bengals down).
Citing his appendix surgery as a reason that Cincinnati could struggle in 2022 is extremely weak reasoning.
The AFC will undoubtedly be tough in 2022.
The Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, and Tennesese Titans are all capable of earning the No. 1 overall seed.
It’s the Bengals, however, that currently sit on the throne in the AFC.
And until they get knocked off, they’re the kings of the conference.