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USATSI

The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off arguably their most successful season in franchise history in 2021 and, even though they fell just short of winning their first-ever Super Bowl, there is the promise that they'll be a factor in the AFC for many years to come. Thanks to the young core headlined by quarterback Joe Burrow and wideout Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati does have the pieces in place to make a similar type of playoff run in 2022. And it appears they know it. 

"To be honest, I feel like we might be the hottest thing smokin' in the NFL on Sundays," running back Joe Mixon told Charlie Walter of CBS Bay Area "With the talent we got and who we added on this year, I feel like we're bound to have a hell of a season. The best thing about it is we've been there before, and we know how to get there. We've just gotta stick to the basics, one week at a time, and that's what's gonna happen."

This offseason, the Bengals emphasized improving their offensive line, which had been a unit that has struggled throughout Burrow's tenure. Last year, Burrow was sacked 70 times throughout the regular season and playoffs, which was the third-most all time. To try to keep Burrow upright in 2022, the team aggressively pursued talent along the O-line and brought in tackle La'el Collins, guard Alex Cappa, and center Ted Karras

That trio should only make Burrow more efficient throwing the ball, which is a dangerous prospect for the rest of the conference with the likes of Chase -- who set a rookie receiving yard record last year with 1,455 yards -- Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd running around. That's also not mentioning Mixon, who logged a career-high 1,519 yards and 16 touchdowns from scrimmage in 2021.

While the Bengals certainly have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with any team in the NFL, they'll be forced to make a little history if they are to live up to Mixon's proclamation. Just eight teams in NFL history have returned to the Super Bowl the year after losing. Out of those teams, just three clubs -- the '71 Cowboys, '72 Dolphins, and '18 Patriots -- were able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy after falling just short the year prior.