The 2023 NFL regular season is finally here, and I want to dive into a game-by-game analysis of what I expect to happen. In my opinion, most of these articles are boring and cookie cutter. I would like to take a different approach to mine. I have broken my predictions up into three categories: Have to win, Should Win (but things don’t always work out like we want), and True toss ups (these are games that could truly go either way and the win loss possibility is 50/50 or worse. The Bengals must win the “Have to wins”, because they are the must wins that there is no excuse for losing and if they lose someone has to truly answer for the mistakes. We can’t chalk them up to good effort but poor execution. There is simply no excuse for losses in this category, so my prediction will always be a win for them. “Should win” games will have an easy case to be made for why the Bengals should win them. However, everyone is good in the NFL, and wins are hard to come by. Sometimes the other team plays better and wins. These will be more wins than losses, but no guarantees. Finally, we have the “True toss ups”. These are games that I can genuinely see going either way, and if we do not show up ready to play and execute at a high level, then we will more than likely lose that game.
My predictions are as follows:
Week 1 – 9/10 @ Cleveland Browns – Should Win, but Week 1 has not been nice to the Bengals in recent memory and the Browns during Joe Burrow’s tenure as the starter have been brutal to be honest. This team is good enough to win this game, and everything in my heart wants to say they will. However, with another pre-season where Joe Burrow did not get extensive work in practice, I can see another slow start and the Bengals start off 0-1. My prediction: Loss.
Week 2 – 9/17 Baltimore Ravens – True Toss Up, and no one will convince me otherwise. I do not expect the Bengals to lay two eggs in a row like they did last year, and I expect them to fully comprehend that the Ravens are their toughest competition in the division this year. Consequently, I think they come out and execute at an AFC Championship level and get back on track from a dud Week 1. My prediction: Win.
Week 3 – 9/25 (Monday Night) Los Angeles Rams – Have to Win, and will come out in a white out effort and continue to play and execute at a high level. Joe Burrow will begin to gain steam as the MVP frontrunner in primetime on Monday Night Football and play extremely well. There is no excuse for the Cincinnati Bengals to lose this game, so if it happens there needs to be heads that roll for the loss. I do not see that occurring, and the Bengals move to 2-1. My prediction: Win.
Week 4 – 10/1 @ Tennessee Titans – Have to Win, because they are better than the Tennessee Titans. The Titans have improved from last year. Living in Nashville, I have seen it firsthand. Mike Vrabel and the new GM, Ran Carthon have made a collaborative effort to get the players that Coach Vrabel wants, and there is no excuse for them to not see positive results because of it (in the opinion of the General Manager as stated at a local press conference here just a week ago). However, they are running into a buzzsaw in the Cincinnati Bengals, and Joe Burrow shows another week why he is a better franchise quarterback than the one playing for the other team. My prediction: Win.
Week 5 – 10/8 @ Arizona Cardinals – Have to Win, because…c’mon it’s the Cardinals. Arguably the worst team in the NFL this season. If you are a betting person, pick the Bengals to win as part of a parlay you like, because I can almost guarantee it will hit. **Disclaimer I am not a gambling expert and actually am admittedly not very good at the bets but I love to do it anyways, so do not take my advice for gospel. Bet at your own risk. However, My prediction: Win.
Week 6 – 10/15 Seattle Seahawks – Should Win, however the NFC West is a tough division much like the AFC North. Head coach, Pete Carroll, runs scout team QB during training camp at 76 years old, and has the players completely bought into what they are doing. Geno Smith has his extension and is playing like we all thought he would when he was the 39th overall pick out of West Virginia by the New York football Giants. However, the recurring theme here is Joe Burrow and his quest to win the MVP. The Seahawks will have another solid year, but those West coast teams traveling East tend to struggle. Mr prediction: Win.
Week 7 – BYE Week
Week 8 – 10/29 @ San Francisco 49ers – True Toss Up, that will come down to the final possession. San Francisco has the single best defender in the NFL right now in reigning NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Bosa, they have an ILB, Fred Warner that is an absolute DAWG, their secondary is scary, and their OL might be even scarier. For the same reason I listed the Bengals getting a win over the Seattle Seahawks in Cincinnati, the Bnegals will take a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Also, coming off an early BYE week, the Bengals could come out a little flat knowing they still have a long season in front of them. My prediction: Loss.
Week 9 – 11/5 Buffalo Bills – True Toss Up that I desperately want to categorize as a Should Win. In my head, the Buffalo Bills are at least two steps behind the Bengals in terms of where they are as a team and even franchise. However, like I said earlier, everyone is good in the NFL and teams catch lightning in a bottle sometimes. Josh Allen is still Josh Allen, and last season every team that played the 49ers, lost the following week. They are so physical, and teams just get beat up against them. The Bengals defense steps up in this one and holds the Bills to less than 21 points, but the offense is sore from last week, and struggles to get anything going. My prediction: Loss.
Week 10 – 11/12 Houston Texans – Have to Win, because of three things. Rookie QB, C.J. Stroud, rookie head coach, Demeco Ryans, and it’s the Houston Texans, a bad team in a bad division. This is one of those wins that has to happen or else a change needs to occur in personnel, coaching, front office, etc. No excuse to lose this game. My prediction: Win.
Week 11 – 11/16 (Thursday Night) @ Baltimore Ravens – True Toss Up, due to a short week against a very good divisional opponent. The health of the Ravens will more than likely play a huge factor in this one, and I can see Money Mac, Evan McPherson winning this one on a last second 50+ yard FG attempt. However, keeping Lamar Jackson at bay in a year that even though he has gotten paid, I feel like he thinks he has a lot to prove will be a very difficult task. Finally, for every Evan McPherson, there is still a Justin Tucker whose smooth leg swing and robotic mechanics reproduce the same results time after time, year after year. My prediction: Loss.
Week 12 – 11/26 Pittsburgh Steelers – Should Win, however it is the Steelers, it is an AFC North divisional game, and their defense continues to be one of the best in the league year in and year out. Kenny Pickett is a year older, Mike Tomlin does not have back-to-back down years and miss the playoffs. Joe Burrow is allowed to have a down game, and I hate to predict a loss at home, but…Joe Burrow is on a mission once again to have his best statistical season, elevating his teammates and winning the MVP. My prediction: Win.
Week 13 – 12/4 (Monday Night) @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Should Win, and on my birthday, I am going to gift myself as much. There’s just no reason to think Trevor Lawrence or the Jaguars have caught up to the Bengals in any way. Doug Pederson has done a tremendous job, and Trevor Lawrence has taken another step towards being a great NFL QB like he showed he was potentially capable of in college. However, once again, Trevor Lawrence is not Joe Burrow as demonstrated in the National Championship game they played against each other in college. This is the type of game where all three phases can come out and make another statement on Monday Night Football. I could see a defensive TD, or Jamarr Chase and Tee Higgins each scoring multiple TDs…something eye popping like that. My prediction: Win
Week 14 – 12/10 Indianapolis Colts – Have to Win, for one reason: Rookie QB with very limited experience under his belt and you have a solid defense. Lou Anarumo will cook something up for the young Anthony Richardson that he has not seen up to this point in the season, and even with 13 starts coming into this football game, the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense will make life very difficult for Richardsona nd the Colts. This biggest downfall for Indianapolis this season will be their lack of a running game. Had they re-signed Jonathan Taylor and he was happy, I would potentially have picked them to be a dark horse to win the AFC South. Alas, they did not do that, and JT is not happy. Thus, chalk another one up for the good guys. My prediction: Win.
Week 15 – 12/16 or 12/17 Minnesota Vikings- Should Win, because they are a better team on paper. However, Kirk Cousins is a franchise QB with veteran experience in big games. A long time since the bye week starts to take its toll on the Bengals, and they drop a close one here. My prediction: Loss.
Week 16 – 12/23 (Saturday Afternoon) @ Pittsburgh Steelers – True Toss Up, because this game is on the road against a divisional opponent, and a very good divisional opponent at that. I heard a radio pundit yesterday say that their hot take for this upcoming NFL season is that the Pittsburgh Steelers finish the year in the Top 10 of both offense and defense team categories. That is a bold statement, but one I would not put past a Mike Tomlin coached, Kenny Pickett quarterbacked team. The Bengals performed well the first time against the Steelers and put up another valiant effort against a not-quite-there-yet divisional foe. My prediction: Win.
Week 17 – 12/31 @ Kansas City Chiefs – True Toss Up, because c’mon…it’s the Chiefs and until they are officially dethroned again in the AFC and/or the Superbowl…I cannot in good conscience just make assumptions. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line, Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow both put up MVP-worthy performances, and this one comes down to a defensive stop and execution on special teams. My prediction: Win
Week 18 – 1/6 or 1/7 Cleveland Browns – Have to Win, whether Zac Taylor chooses to rest anyone or not, and home-field hopefully locked up, this one comes down to execution and talent. On paper, these two teams are closer than some may realize, but firing on all cylinders, the Bengals get it done again. My prediction: Win.
Final Season Record Prediction: 12-5, and a bonus explanation coupled with a post-season prediction. I think the AFC and all their divisional opponents poach each other, allowing a 12-5 record to earn home-field throughout the playoffs. Cincinnati Bengals defeat someone at home in the AFC championship game (could be the Ravens, could be the Chiefs, or maybe someone new like the Dolphins), and defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl for their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. Final Score Prediction: Bengals Win 26-17.