The Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the most successful franchises in the NFL for the past couple of seasons. Joe Burrow is the only quarterback to ever beat Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs on three separate occasions since 2018. But the 2023 campaign has not been kind to the Bengals.
Joe Burrow Has Had An Eventful Offseason
Before the year ever began, Burrow suffered a devastating calf strain. He was carted off the practice field, with many around the league assuming the worst-case scenario. Thankfully, the Injury Gods showed mercy, leaving the star quarterback with a chance to start during Week 1.
Burrow did all he could to get his calf to a playable standard. And he succeeded. Even with wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase imploring Joey B not to rush back, the former No. 1 overall pick got cleared to start the season opener vs. the Browns.
Week 1 saw the franchise travel to Cleveland in a sloppy rainstorm — not exactly the ideal conditions for a signal-caller dealing with an injury. And guess what? Joe Burrow looked rusty and, at times, still injured throughout the game.
His timing with his pass catchers was off, while the snap counts and synergy with the offensive line were clearly lacking as well. When Burrow was able to get a clean pocket and find his receivers, it didn’t look as polished as we are accustomed to seeing from the 26-year-old.
Burrow completed 14 of his 31 pass attempts on the day, registering a career-low 82 passing yards in the process. His QBR (24.2) and passer rating (52.2) ranked amongst the worst in Bengals history as the offense limped its way to three points on the day, heading back to Cincy with a 24-3 loss.
The Bengals Stumble To An 0-2 Start
Entering Week 2, Burrow’s crew put up more of a fight at home vs. the Ravens. However, it was still a far cry away from the team that qualified for a Super Bowl two seasons ago. To make matters worse, the 27-24 loss on the scoreboard only paints half the picture.
It has been reported that Joe Burrow aggravated the calf injury that kept him sidelined for the preseason. Midway through the fourth quarter, the former LSU standout limped his way to the sideline after tossing a touchdown pass. He was shown working on the calf for the remainder of the game.
Now, with a 0-2 start and a hobbled signal-caller, the Bengals are on the verge of no return if they cannot right the ship. Only six teams have qualified for a postseason berth after starting 0-3 (since 1979), with the Houston Texans as the most recent squad to do so in 2018.
Cincinnati will host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football, a rematch of the aforementioned Super Bowl appearance for the Bengals. As you’d have it, the Rams are currently clicking on all cylinders — even without All-Pro wideout Cooper Kupp.
Can Cincy Rebound? The Health Of Burrow Will Determine Their Fate
It goes without saying: Joe Burrow’s health will determine whether the Bengals can rebound and salvage the 2023 campaign. If he’s unable to regain form or is forced out of action entirely, Cincinnati will suffer.
Head coach Zac Taylor isn’t crafty enough as a play-caller to make up for the loss of Burrow, not to mention the connection the star quarterback has with his receivers is impossible for backup Jake Browning to emulate. Scary hours are approaching, with 0-3 staring the Bengals directly in the eye.
They have been counted out before, so perhaps this will all be for naught. But to this point, Burrow’s performance and health have not been up to par. Here’s to hoping the former Heisman Trophy winner gets back to 100 percent sooner than later; the NFL is infinitely better with a healthy Joe Burrow.