Two games are on tonight’s National Football League preseason schedule. The action starts at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time when the New York Giants host the Carolina Panthers. A half hour later, in Atlanta, the Falcons entertain the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals rose from years of futility in the AFC North Division two years ago when they advanced to Super Bowl LVI behind second-year quarterback Joe Burrow and his college teammate who was Cincinnati’s first pick in the 2021 draft, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. After four consecutive last place finishes, the Bengals took the NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams to the final seconds of a competitive Super Bowl that resulted in a 23-20 Los Angeles victory.
When a team has multiple losing seasons and then skyrockets to the top of their conference with a stunning season, what follows is as predictable as the Easter Bunny hiding eggs. They struggle in the season after their initial success for good reason. Their campaign that has a meteoric rise was built on the motivation of overcoming recent poor campaigns and once that initial success is achieved, the expectations versus talent scale is routinely out of whack.
In 1981, the San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl after years of disappointing campaigns, and the following year had a losing mark and missed the playoffs. After their disappointing 1982 campaign, San Francisco regrouped behind Joe Montana and Head Coach Bill Walsh to establish one of the great dynasties in NFL history.
The pattern exhibited by the 49ers of a great year, followed by an off-season, and then a rebound has been repeated throughout NFL history.
With this in mind, last year should have been a struggle for the Bengals. It started that way, they lost their opener at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and got upset the following Sunday against the Cowboys in Dallas. Then, in stark contrast to established patterns, the Bengals caught fire. They ran off a dozen wins in their next 14 games while compiling a point spread record that saw them win 12 of 13 decisions in the weeks following their second week loss in Dallas.
If this was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, somebody would be saying, “Who are those guys?”
Did the two opening defeats suddenly erase the high expectations for the Bengals last season and turn them again into a squad with something to prove, a motivator to overcome disappointment?
If the Bengals would have struggled last year, instead of taking the Kansas City Chiefs to the brink before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champions in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium, then this year we would expect a rebound for Burrow and company. But, what we have instead is a Bengals squad that is among the perceived leaders to compete for the prize awaiting the Super Bowl LVIII winner following unexpected success.
In all honesty, I’m not sure what to anticipate from this year’s Bengals squad. I like their head coach, Zac Taylor, and love quarterback Joe Burrow. They have what appears to be a solid organization to vault forward with a defense on par with the best in the league.
What’s not to like?
Their season-to-season success after years of futility has me thinking that their off-year may just have been delayed for a campaign. But, perhaps their success last season is more a tribute to their organization and another sterling season, perhaps even a Super Bowl win, is in the cards this year for the fans in the Queen City.
Expectations are running high in Cincinnati, which brings us to the present. If so much is so good in Cincinnati then why are they getting a touchdown on the spread tonight when they tangle with the Atlanta Falcons?
What do the books know that the public doesn’t?
More than 80% of the individual wagers on tonight’s game in Atlanta are taking the underdog Bengals, and yet the line isn’t moving with the public action. We have seen that the Falcons are a bookmaker choice with both season long win total projections and preseason odds, and tonight they are carrying a hefty line while the public considers it an easy win with the Bengals and the points.
The point of this story is beware of points that look too good … the books aren’t here to give away wins.
Qoxhi Picks: Atlanta Falcons (-6½) over Cincinnati Bengals