If you followed the Cincinnati Bengals last season, then you may have noticed that they were one of the worst teams in the NFL. OK, they weren't one of the worst teams, they were the worst team, at least on paper: They had the worst record, they had the worst run defense in the NFL, and they were bad at scoring points. 

Not exactly three things you're ever going to be bragging about. 

Despite their ugly 2019 season, this is a team that should have a lot optimism heading into 2020. For one, they weren't as bad as most people thought they were last year. Although they finished 2-14, the Bengals were in nearly every game they played. Not only did they lose eight games by just one score, but they also held the lead at some point during 12 of their 16 games. To put that in perspective, the only other team to lead in 12 games but still manage to lose 14 times was the 1979 49ers, who had Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. 

The 0-8 record in one-score games was also shocking, because that's nearly impossible to do. Statistically speaking, NFL teams should win about half of their one-score games. Basically, the Bengals were a better team than their record indicated. They were a team that kept games close despite the fact that they lost two starters for the year before the season even started in A.J. Green and 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams

Of course, having the worst record in the NFL ended up working out in the Bengals' favor, because it allowed them to land Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. The biggest upside of having the first overall pick is that your team almost always improves if you select a quarterback. Over the past 10 years, there have been six quarterbacks -- Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray -- who have been taken with the top pick and started at least 12 games during their rookie year, and those quarterbacks have combined to go 41-41-1. 

Even though each quarterback went to a bad team, they still managed to combine for a .500 record. Those same six quarterbacks have averaged 6.8 wins per year during their rookie season. 

The other thing the Bengals did this year was participate in free agency, which was shocking, because that's generally something they don't ever do -- until about the fourth wave of free agency when everything is 60% off. The Bengals love discounts. However, this year, the team went out and got multiple players who should be able to contribute right away, such as D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander

Basically, there are a lot of reasons why the Bengals should win substantially more games this year, and the biggest reason is that their team is better. 

Am I trying to talk myself into a Bengals playoff berth? Maybe. 

Let's get to the 2020 week-by-week predictions and find out how good I think the Bengals are going to be this year. All odds are provided by William Hill Sports Book.

Week 1 vs. Chargers

Line: Bengals +3.5
Opponent win total: O/U 7.5

The guys in the NFL scheduling department didn't do the Bengals any favors in Week 1. This is a nightmare matchup for a Cincinnati team that will be starting a rookie at quarterback, and that's mostly because Joe Burrow is likely going to spend the first game of his career running for his life. The Chargers have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Even if Burrow can somehow avoid those two, he's going to be throwing passes into a Chargers secondary that now includes Chris Harris. The one thing about this game is that the Bengals are going to be hyped. Not only will it be Burrow's debut, but it marks just the second time since 2010 that the team has opened a season at home. Thanks to that hype, I think the Bengals keep it close, but in the end, they won't pull out the win. 

Prediction: Chargers 27-24
Projected record: 0-1

Week 2 at Browns (Thursday night)

Line: Bengals +8
Opponent win total: 
O/U 8.5

If there's one team the Bengals have dominated over the past few years, it's the Cleveland Browns. The Bengals have won eight of the past 11 games in this series, including a 33-23 win that last time these two teams met, which came in Week 17 of last season. The point spread here seems to be ridiculously high in favor of the Browns, which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense for multiple reasons. For one, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield still hasn't proven that he can be consistently good in the NFL, and there's no guarantee the Browns rush defense is going to be better after giving up the third most yards in the NFL last season. If this game were on a Sunday, I'd think about picking the Bengals to win, but it's a Thursday game, and it's Cleveland's home opener, so I'm taking the Browns. 

Prediction: Browns 23-20 over Bengals
Projected record: 0-2

Week 3 at Eagles

Opponent win total: O/U 9.5

The month of September is going to turn into a full-fledged disaster for the Bengals as they drop to 0-3 after a loss in Philadelphia. The upside for the team is that Joe Burrow is going to continue to grow more comfortable in the team's offense, and that's going to set the Bengals up for some surprising success over the final 13 games of the season. 

Prediction: Eagles 27-20 over Bengals
Projected record: 0-3

Week 4 vs. Jaguars

Opponent win total: O/U 4.5

If the Bengals go winless in September, the good news for them is that October is going to open up with a very winnable game. The Bengals have more talent than the Jaguars at almost every skill position and should be able to easily outscore Jacksonville. Defensively, the Jags will likely be starting at least two rookies -- K'Lavon Chaisson and C.J. Henderson -- and they might not have Yannick Ngakoue, which is why I'm predicting the Bengals to hit the 30-point mark for the first time in this game. 

Prediction: Bengals 30-23 over Jaguars
Projected record: 1-3

Week 5 at Ravens

Opponent win total: O/U 11.5

To most outsiders, this game might seem like a blowout waiting to happen, but the fact of the matter is that the Bengals almost always play well in Baltimore. Remember how bad Cincinnati was last season? Well, that team almost pulled off a stunner against the Ravens in Week 6 when they lost by just one score in Baltimore (23-17). The last seven Bengals-Ravens games that have been played in Baltimore have been decided by just one score, so we're going to keep that theme going. 

Prediction: Ravens 31-24 over Bengals
Projected record: 1-4

Week 6 at Colts

Opponent win total: O/U 9

No one does letdown games quite like the Bengals, and this feels like the perfect spot for a letdown. After going toe-to-toe with the Ravens, it won't be surprising at all if the Bengals show up to Indy in Week 6 and get totally dominated. The Colts have a veteran quarterback in Phillip Rivers who will likely spend four quarters taking advantage of the Bengals' secondary. 

Prediction: Colts 30-16 over Bengals
Projected record: 1-5

Week 7 vs. Browns

Opponent win total: O/U 8.5

The Browns have only swept this series once over the past 15 years, so since I predicted them to win the first meeting between these two teams, there's no way I'm going to predict them to win the second one. This will be a huge game for the Bengals, because it would give them a chance to pick up their first division win of the year. I fully expect this game to turn into a shootout where defense is optional. 

Prediction: Bengals 34-31 over Browns
Projected record: 2-5

Week 8 vs. Titans

Opponent win total: O/U 8.5

If there's one thing the Bengals couldn't do last year, it's stop the run. During the 2019 season, the Bengals gave up more rushing yards than any other team in the NFL, and the only reason I'm mentioning that is because this feels like a game where Derrick Henry could go off. If Henry goes off, the Bengals aren't going to win. 

Prediction: Titans 20-17 over Bengals
Projected record: 2-6

Week 9 BYE

First half synopsis; Although I have the Bengals at 2-6 at the halfway mark, I do feel like there are some winnable games that I had them losing. The Bengals almost always win at least one game that you completely weren't expecting them to win, so it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see them pull off an upset against either the Chargers or Titans. If they can win one of those games, they'd be 3-5 going into the bye and would have a realistic shot of reaching .500. 

Week 10 at Steelers

Opponent win total: O/U 9

If there's one city where the Bengals almost never win, it's Pittsburgh. Over the past 10 years, the Bengals have gone 2-8 in the Steel City, and they might have reached rock bottom last year when they lost 27-3 against a Steelers team that was quarterbacked by Mason Rudolph. If Rudolph can hand them that type of beating, just imagine what Ben Roethlisberger is going to do. 

Prediction: Steelers 30-17 over Bengals
Projected record: 2-7

Week 11 at Redskins

Opponent win total: O/U 5.5

If there's one stretch of games that the Bengals probably circled on their calendar this year, it's the three-game span that starts in Week 11 with the Redskins and then continues with the Giants and Dolphins. This feels like the one spot on the schedule where the Bengals could put a substantial winning streak together, and it wouldn't be completely surprising if that happens. The guess here is that the Redskins defense, which was one of just six teams that surrendered 27 or more points per game last season, has no answers for Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense. Even if these teams are bad, this game will be worth watching to see the two top picks in the 2020 NFL Draft going at it (Burrow and Chase Young). 

Prediction: Bengals 34-20 over Redskins
Projected record: 3-7

Week 12 vs. Giants

Opponent win total: O/U 6.5

If there's one game on the Bengals schedule that could turn into an unexpected shootout, it's probably this one. The Giants and Bengals both had bad defenses last season, and although both teams should be better on that side of the ball in 2020, they're still going to struggle at times. This is going to be one of those games where the team with the final possession wins, and the Bengals are going to get the final possession, thanks to Daniel Jones, who's going to fumble away New York's chances at winning. Jones had 18 fumbles in 2019, which was the most in the NFL last year, and the most by any player in the NFL since 2002. 

Prediction: Bengals 37-34 over Giants
Projected record: 4-7

Week 13 at Dolphins

Opponent win total: O/U 6

The idea of the Bengals and Dolphins playing a late season game against each other might not sounds sexy on paper, but this is game that most NFL fans should have circled on their calendar, and that's because it might be giving us Joe Burrow vs. Tua Tagovailoa. In their first ever meeting, Burrow proves why he was the No. 1 overall pick by outperforming Tua and throwing for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns. 

Prediction: Bengals 27-23 over Dolphins
Projected record: 5-7

Week 14 vs. Cowboys

Opponent win total: O/U 9.5

The Bengals have done a lot to beef up their defense this year, but despite that, they're still going to have a tough time stopping a team with as many offensive weapons as the Dallas Cowboys. Although it was tempting to take the Cowboys in a blowout win, I actually think this game is going to be close, and that's because it's a classic trap game situation for Dallas. The week before they play the Bengals, the Cowboys have to play in Baltimore, and the week after they play the Bengals, the Cowboys will be hosting the 49ers. With Cincinnati sandwiched in-between those two teams, it wouldn't be surprising if the Dallas were to overlook the Bengals. 

Prediction: Cowboys 31-27 over Bengals
Projected record: 5-8

Week 15 vs. Steelers (Monday)

Opponent win total: O/U 9

Coming into this game, the Bengals will have won three of four, but none of those victories would be as sweet as beating the Steelers on "Monday Night Football." With the national spotlight on Cincinnati, the prediction here is that Joe Burrow has his best game of the season as the Bengals get their signature win of 2020 with a stunner over the Steelers.  

Prediction: Bengals 26-23 over Steelers
Projected record: 6-8

Week 16 at Texans

Opponent win total: O/U 8

After beating the Steelers, the Bengals are going to start to think that they can beat anyone, and they'll ride that confidence wave to a win over the Texans. I'm not super high on the Texans this year, and I feel like there's a good chance that this team will be floundering by Week 16. On the other hand, the Bengals are going into 2020 with low expectations, and if they still have a chance to get to .500 heading into Week 16, this game might as well be their Super Bowl. 

Prediction: 30-27
Projected record: 7-8

Week 17 vs. Ravens

Opponent win total: O/U 11.5

By the time Week 17 rolls around, if the Ravens are in the hunt for the top seed in the AFC -- which would give them the conference's one and only bye -- there's absolutely no way they're going to overlook the Bengals. They also won't be overlooking the Bengals after Cincinnati cost them a playoff berth with a Week 17 shocker in 2018 (Bills fans are still thankful for that). Basically, Ravens coach John Harbaugh has been bit by the Bengals bug too many times to let it happen again. If the Ravens somehow have already clinched their playoff seed by the time Week 17 rolls round, I still expect them to win, and that's because of Harbaugh. Last season, Harbaugh decided to rest his starters in Week 17, and there's a 100% chance he won't be making that mistake again, even if the Ravens already have their playoff spot clinched. 

Prediction: 34-24
Projected record: 7-9