Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase both took the step backwards we expected in terms of efficiency, and both also reaffirmed their status as two of the best options at their positions by dominating in different ways than the year before. This is one of the best offenses in the league and figures to remain so as long as Burrow is healthy. The Bengals have to make some tough decisions about their roster before long, although Joe Mixon's took at least one of those tough decisions off the table.
Record: 12-4 (6)
PPG: 26.1 (7)
YPG: 360.5 (8)
Pass YPG: 265.0 (5)
Rush YPG: 95.5 (29)
PAPG: 38.1 (6)
RAPG: 24.9 (24)
2022 Fantasy finishes
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Number to know: 9.9
That's how many targets Ja'Marr Chase averaged in the 12 full games he played with a healthy Tee Higgins, including the playoffs last season. That's a huge number, and one you'd be thrilled to see at the end of the full season. But it's not quite what you'll see if you look at Chase's per-game average last season – that was a whopping 11.2 targets per game. The gap there is in the 43 targets Chase had in Weeks 1, 5, and 14, when Higgins was a non-factor – he had just two targets across those three games and played 16% of the total snaps while dealing with injuries. If you look at the overall numbers, you can make a case for Chase leading the league in targets, but once you factor that three games out, Chase comes back down to earth a bit. He's still an elite Fantasy player, and a candidate to be the No. 1 WR, but if Higgins stays healthy, he's less likely to get there.
1. (28) Myles Murphy, DE
2. (60) DJ Turner II, DB
3. (95) Jordan Battle, DB
4. (131) Charlie Jones, WR
5. (163) Chase Brown, RB
6. (206) Andrei Iosivas, WR
6. (217) Brad Robbins, P
7. (246) DJ Ivey, CB
95 RB carries, 20 RB targets, 15 WR targets, 90 TE targets
Rankings and projections
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Joe Burrow||PA: 597, YD: 4356, TD: 33, INT: 13; RUSH -- ATT: 62, YD: 218, TD: 3|
|RB||Joe Mixon||CAR: 270, YD: 1078, TD: 10; TAR: 72, REC: 54, YD: 403, TD: 2|
|RB||Chase Brown||CAR: 50, YD: 214, TD: 2; TAR: 18, REC: 14, YD: 115, TD: 1|
|WR||Ja'Marr Chase||TAR: 161, REC: 108, YD: 1360, TD: 11|
|WR||Tee Higgins||TAR: 131, REC: 92, YD: 1191, TD: 7|
|WR||Tyler Boyd||TAR: 84, REC: 57, YD: 821, TD: 3|
|TE||Irv Smith||TAR: 66, REC: 44, YD: 460, TD: 3|
Can Joe Mixon remain the RB1?
It felt like we spent the entire offseason waiting for the Bengals to cut Mixon, and then they didn't. He might not be the superstar many wanted him to be, but his role in this Bengals offense is still hugely valuable -- the starting running back for the Bengals combined for 248 carries and 89 targets last season. If he can stay in the coaching staff's good graces, Mixon could be this year's Josh Jacobs, an RB most have given up on who surprises with a high-end season thanks to elite usage.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
This one's pretty simple: If Mixon gets hurt (or his off-field troubles unexpectedly cost him time), Brown is well situated to have a massive role this season. The Bengals wouldn't just hand him an every-down role, but he showed that skill set in college before the Bengals took him with a fifth-round pick, and his only competition for touches would be Trayveon Williams, a sixth-round pick from 2019 who has 47 carries in four NFL seasons. Williams' experience may actually make him the likely backup to Mixon, but Brown seems like the better lottery ticket here if Mixon misses time.
The case for Mixon is pretty simple: Now that he's almost certainly going to be on the roster for Week 1, he's probably going to be an RB1 by default. The Bengals are probably never going back to being a run-first team, but they have shown a willingness to use Mixon in both facets of the game, and he's tied to an elite offense that should generate a bunch of goal-line work. I don't think Mixon is a difference maker in real life at this point, if he ever was, but with his likely role in the offense, it'll be hard for him not to be a must-start Fantasy RB. As I said earlier, he has a real chance of being this year's Josh Jacobs.
I'm going to be honest: My heart isn't in this one. The Bengals are a high-end offense that figures to concentrate their touches yet again, so I don't really think there's much room for anyone to go wrong, health permitting, now that Mixon's contract situation is settled. But if there's one elephant in the room, it's Higgins' looming contract extension. He's a terrific player, potentially one of the 12 best at his position in the whole league, who also happens to be the clear No. 2 on his own team. Is he going to settle for anything less than elite WR money? Will he be happy continuing to play second fiddle to Chase, especially with a Burrow extension looming and Chase eligible for one of his own after this season? There aren't any real football reasons to fade Higgins, who averaged 16.5 PPR points in his 13 healthy games last season. But I could see a world where a disgruntled Higgins plays at something less than his full potential. It's unlikely, but there really aren't any other bust candidates here.