It is finally here – NFL football. I’ll admit after Joe Burrow’s injury last year it felt like the season dragged and the interest was loss. Another losing season didn’t help the matters, but I couldn’t be more excited for a new start to the season and the return of Joe Burrow. All-systems a Joe – a great behind-the-scenes look at Joe Burrow’s return to the field from the Bengals media team.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) September 9, 2021
Now let’s get to my early season thoughts: I tell people all the time the night Joe Burrow was drafted I’ve never seen this much excitement from the city of Cincinnati when it comes to the sports world – it’s a whole new energy and Burrow’s football IQ is special. It’s still extremely impressive Joe Burrow, CJ Uzomah and Trey Hopkins bounced back from injuries of last season and are good for week one on Sunday vs. the Minnesota Vikings. This is also my first game in the stands since college and I’m excited to take it all in (I’ll have photos for next week’s blog) When it comes to game and prediction – I’m known for being overly optimistic and for some reason the new energy at Paul Brown Stadium has me feeling like an opener win – I think the biggest question marks going into the opener is the secondary vs. the Vikings wide receivers – I do think the Bengals secondary is upgraded from last season, but will be without Trae Waynes in the CB – that has been a bit of a disappointment due to Waynes’ injuries since arriving in Cincinnati last year. I don’t think the Bengals are getting enough credit for the offensive line moves in the offseason – yes it would be ideal that Jackson Carman finds his way on the field this season – at the moment Riley Reiff is the most underrated free agent signing and Jonah Williams might be the most important on the offense not named Joe Burrow – I feel this offensive line just needs to be over average and protect Joe Burrow. When it comes to the Bengals playmakers – Ja’Marr Chase has been in the media a lot since being drafted mostly due to his preseason drops. For me personally I think Chase will be just fine he did take last year off of college football and the jump to the NFL can’t be easy. Tyler Boyd is the most underrated slot guy in the NFL – Tee Higgins and Joe Burrow for a full season should be fun to watch in the WR room. I think if the Bengals can balance the offense on the ground with a healthy Joe Mixon and loaded WR room they should do fine on Sunday. That is something they have struggled with. When it comes to the defensive side of the ball the linebacker room got young early and I like the steps Logan Wilson will take in year two. Defensive line is upgraded despite dealing with injuries and if they can get to the quarterback they make life a little easier for the secondary. They need Trey Hendrickson to work out. Jessie Bates is Jessie Bates a Safety who doesn’t get enough credit and will hopefully be signing an extension before kickoff on Sunday. A lot of people have asked me if this is a make or break year for Zac Taylor – some would call me a Zac Taylor apologist and that’s is fine. I think Taylor has the locker room and I’m not trying to make excuses but he was a late hire due to the Super Bowl two years ago – last year he had a rookie QB and the league was and still is dealing with COVID and restrictions. Joe Burrow believes in his coach and Taylor isn’t afraid to make tough decisions. I think the connection with the head coach and the QB is extremely important and it looks like a great one in Cincinnati. I’ll always remember Gio Bernard taking up for Zac Taylor last year during a losing season and you could tell this team plays hard for him. Yes I know wins are the most important thing, but I truly hope this is the year for Taylor and the Cincinnati Bengals. I’m so happy football season is back – now for my prediction after all the rambling. I think Bengals find a way to make it a close one and rookie kicker Evan McPherson helps them take the lead late in the 4th. I think the factor in this game will be Joe Mixon and Tee Higgins. The defense had a great training camp and I think that continues on the hot opener on Sunday. Bengals 28 Vikings 20 Speaking of Paul Brown Stadium – want to do a quick shoutout to the Bengals and Elizabeth Blackburn. She and the Bengals are working to make game days at the stadium a great time. Elizabeth was part of the major push for the Bengals ring of honor and that didn’t stop there. I can’t wait to experience a day at the jungle on Sunday. Here’s what is new at PBS. When it comes to uniforms Bengals are going white on white and I think this is the best combo of the season.
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) September 7, 2021
Make sure you’re following along on Twitter and see you on Sunday!