The Cleveland Browns were supposed to be the new team on the rise in the AFC North but after a Divisional Round win on Saturday, the Bengals have taken that distinction
Sure, they swept them this season but the Cincinnati Bengals are going to be a problem for the Cleveland Browns for several years to come.
After winning 11 games in 2020 as well as knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, the Browns were supposed to be the new hot team in the AFC North. And with the Steelers slipping some and Baltimore dealing with a myriad of injuries, this should have been their year.
Instead, it was their in-state rivals who took their next step. The Bengals not only won the AFC North but they also knocked off the Las Vegas Raiders in the Wild Card Round and followed that up with a win over the No. 1 seed in the Divisional Round, beating the Tennessee Titans on a last-second field goal.
In that win, Joe Burrow did something Baker Mayfield was unable to get done in several tries, delivered in the clutch with a drive into field goal range. After the defense got him the ball with 20 seconds to go, Burrow hit rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase for 19-yards to set up the field goal.
Therein lies the real problem Cleveland is going to face. The Bengals are set up not only with elite talent, but they’re incredibly young. Burrow is in year two of his NFL career while Chase is a rookie. They also have Tee Higgins who is talented enough to be a No. 1 wideout on many teams who is also in his second season.
Cincinnati does have some flaws, however. Their offensive line is atrocious, which is how the Titans racked up nine sacks on Burrow.
That will be the area Cincy tries to fix in the 2022 offseason and the Browns will need to figure out how they can make sure they don’t get left behind.