Through the cigar smoke and the thumping bass of Lil Elt’s timeless track Get the Gat you’ll see Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow celebrating the Bengals first division title and playoff berth since 2015.
Burrow was more than instrumental in placing the Bengals atop the AFC North. In the past two games against the Ravens and the Chiefs, Burrow put up a monstrous combined statline of 971 yards, 8 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) January 3, 2022
Burrow has been impressively consistent throughout the course of the season. Per Pro Football Reference, Burrow has completed 70% of his throws for 4,611 yards, 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. However, after exploding in the two most important games of the season for the Bengals, Burrow has firmly placed his name into not only the Comeback Player of the Year Award but also the Most Valuable Player award.
Following the coronation, Burrow spoke to reporters, reminding them of his intent to win at the start of the season. “I said that if we were going to go to the playoffs,” Burrow reminded reporters “the easiest way to do that was to win the division. Everyone kind of laughed at us a little bit, but we knew what kind of team we had.”
Burrow’s preseason confidence was well placed. Eyebrows were raised following the Bengals selection of Burrow’s former college teammate Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft, especially when tackle Penei Sewell remained on the board. At that moment in time, with their star quarterback coming off of two gruesome knee injuries, taking a quality offensive tackle would have been a no-brainer for Cincy.
However, Burrow himself seems to have flexed his influence in the organisation and persuaded the Bengals front office to select Chase instead. Six months on and it’s safe to say that the move has instantly paid off.
In the game against the Chiefs, Chase exploded for 266 receiving yards and three touchdowns, the most electrifying of which involved an incredible 72-yard catch and run.
JA'MARR CHASE 72-YARD TD! #RuleTheJungle
— NFL (@NFL) January 2, 2022
Chase is excelling as the Robin to Burrow’s Batman, recording 1,429 receiving yards through 16 games, breaking the rookie receiving record in the process. Yet the Bengals are not just a prolific tag-team between Chase and Burrow, but a group of multi-purpose threats which can attack from all angles.
Tee Higgins at wide receiver is one of the best jump ball-winners in the entire league. C.J. Uzomah is an incredibly smart and wily tight end capable of reading coverages and being a safety valve in the passing game. And Joe Mixon at tailback has consistently been a top ten talent at his position. Burrow has been equipped with one of the finest skill position groupings in all of football, and he’s using them to catapult himself into the MVP conversation.
Burrow’s situation is similar to both Brady and Rodgers. Burrow possesses a litany of offensive talent. Higgins, Chase, Mixon and Uzomah and Boyd are Burrow’s version of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin (now injured), Antonio Brown (now lost in the New Jersey wilderness), Leonard Fournette and Rob Gronkowski. The biggest difference between the two offences is that Brady’s offensive line is leagues better than Burrow’s. This manifests itself in Brady having a somewhat cleaner statline than Burrow.
Per Pro Football Reference, Brady has thrown for 379 more yards, 6 more touchdowns and taken 30 fewer sacks than Burrow. However, Burrow has only thrown two more picks than Brady as well as averaged close to two more yards per attempt per game than his senior. In fact, Burrow having to live in a constant state of pressure and intensity has maybe contributed to his uncanny ability to beat the blitz.
Per PFF’s Andrew Russell, Joe Burrow went 11-13 for 142 yards and a touchdown against the blitz in Week 16 against the Ravens. Moreover, Burrow is one of, if not the highest-graded, quarterback against the blitz in the NFL. Burrow’s smarts at the line of scrimmage, his discipline to make the correct throw every time and his composure under pressure all contribute to the Bengal being ‘un-blitzable’.
How does Burrow compare to Rodgers?
Rodgers is odds on favourite for the MVP award, and perhaps rightly so. So it’s no insult to Burrow that his play doesn’t quite measure up to arguably the best quarterback in the league. However, Burrow boasts a higher completion percentage than Rodgers, 70.4% compared to 68.6%, as well as a higher Y/A.
Physically, Burrow does not measure against Rodgers, this is with Rodgers’ age factored in. Rodgers’ arm strength is spectacular whereas Burrow’s is just okay and by far the former LSU Tiger’s biggest weakness. The Packers’ win-loss record is also an influential factor in the award ultimately going to Rodgers over Burrow. However, there is no shame in Joe Burrow not winning the MVP award in his sophomore season.
More importantly to Bengals fans is that AFC North trophy on the shelf. And I have a feeling that if you asked Joe Burrow he’d much rather have an AFC Championship Trophy or even a Super Bowl trophy next to it over a regular-season MVP.