The Cincinnati Bengals will have the chance to defend their AFC title from a season ago.
Cincy clinched a playoff berth with the Jacksonville Jaguars' victory over the New York Jets on Thursday.
The Bengals made a surprising run through the postseason last year as the No. 4 seed, beating the Las Vegas Raiders before defeating the top-seeded Tennessee Titans and Patrick Mahomes' high-flying Kansas City Chiefs.
They couldn't best Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald in the Super Bowl, falling to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20. But given the burgeoning careers of players such as quarterback Joe Burrow and receiver Ja'Marr Chase, among others, the future felt bright.
The 2022 campaign started on rocky footing, however, as the Bengals lost their first two games and started 2-3. But once November rolled around, the Bengals got red hot, winning six straight games to take control of the AFC North. They were somewhat aided by the knee injury to Baltimore's Lamar Jackson in December.
Nonetheless, the Bengals handled their business and are a legitimate threat to come out of the AFC yet again, even if the Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills are still considered the favorites. Bengals fans will be quick to point out, however, that Cincy has beaten the Chiefs three straight times.
A passing game headlined by Burrow, Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd—paired with Joe Mixon on the ground—makes the Bengals offense a real threat, even if keeping Burrow upright has been an issue this season (37 sacks taken).
Add in a solid defense, and the Bengals can make noise this winter, just like they did a season ago. With a playoff berth locked up, the next step is winning the first title in franchise history.