Don’t forget about the Cincinnati Bengals

Toy Story is a phenomenal movie.

A cowboy doll and all his friends whom their owner, a young boy, loves to play with. All is well until a new toy shows up, and all of a sudden poor Woody doesn’t get the attention he once got.

That’s the Cincinnati Bengals.

Just two years ago, Joe Burrow was the talk of the NFL, the Bengals became the darlings of the league, and they were minutes away from winning the Super Bowl. Fast forward to 2024 coming off a year in which Burrow dealt with injuries throughout the first half of the season before coming off the bye looking refreshed and leading the Bengals to huge wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. Even in their loss to the Houston Texans, Burrow threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bengals would have won if not for a dropped pass by Tyler Boyd in the end zone.

Regardless, the Bengals looked to be back in the saddle again heading into a Thursday night matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. Burrow threw a four yard touchdown pass to Joe Mixon to put the Bengals up 10-7, but hit his hand on the helmet of a Ravens defender in the process. He was in clear pain on the sideline, unable to grip and throw the ball, and it was later revealed he had a torn ligament in his wrist. Just like that, Burrow’s season, and really the Bengals’ season, was over.

Now, in April of 2024, the Bengals are in a place they haven’t been in quite sometime- under the radar. Of course everyone will be talking about the back-to-back Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, but who is garnering the rest of the attention? The Baltimore Ravens, who came up short in what could potentially be their best chance at a Super Bowl with Lamar Jackson.

If the discussion isn’t about the Ravens, it’s about the Houston Texans, the new girl next door of the NFL neighborhood who just traded for Stefon Diggs and have a young superstar at quarterback. The same 49ers team that the Bengals beat handedly lost to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Hell, even a Steelers team that is great defensively but only upgraded from Kenny Pickett to Russell Wilson/Justin Fields are getting much more coverage and discussion than the Bengals.

And honestly, maybe that’s how Cincinnati wants it. Because when healthy, they are still one of the best teams in the NFL. Not to mention, one would think they know that this may be their best shot yet to win a championship. This is Tee Higgins’ swan song as a Bengal. Having a special duo made up of he and Ja’Marr Chase isn’t easy to come by. They also added Mike Gesicki as a vertical threat tight end and Zach Moss to compliment Chase Brown in the backfield. Defensively, they stole safety Geno Stone from the Ravens and added Sheldon Rankins in the middle of their defensive line.

With a healthy Burrow, this is a team that had a top five offense in the NFL in 2022 in terms of EPA, success rate, and just about every other measurable metric. This is a team led by a quarterback that is 3-1 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The same team that very nearly defeated them in consecutive AFC Championship Games. So while the Texans and Bills of the world are absolutely going to be in the mix and it won’t shock anyone if they make it out of the AFC, don’t forget about the Cincinnati Bengals.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire