The Cincinnati Bengals snuck up on some people last season on their way to winning the AFC North and reaching the Super Bowl.
That's not going to happen this year. The Bengals are officially now part of the "hunted" in the AFC and the NFL in general.
That change in status might not matter, says Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon. In an interview with Charlie Walter of KPIX, Mixon expressed confidence in the moves the Bengals made this offseason and thinks this year's group can be right back in the championship mix.
“We was obviously there,” Mixon said of the Super Bowl. “We went there. We actually put on a hell of a showing. To be honest, I feel like we might be the hottest thing smoking in the NFL on Sundays. With the talent we got and who we added onto 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 just gotta stick to the basics, one week at a time and that’s what’s gonna happen.”
The last team to lose the Super Bowl and make it back the following season was the 2018 New England Patriots, who beat the Los Angeles Rams one year after falling to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Only eight teams all time have returned to the Super Bowl after losing on the big stage, so the so-called "Super Bowl hangover" seems legit.
Still, it seems like the Bengals are embracing the challenge ahead of them coming off of their breakthrough season.
"I think that's a fun spot to be in," Bengals tight end Drew Sample told The Spun recently. "Obviously, there's never any easy games, but just knowing you have to bring your best every single game. We're the defending AFC champs. We're going to play a No. 1 division schedule, a lot of good teams. I think we're excited about that.
"We're excited about the challenge. We know we're a good team. Obviously, the goal is to go back to the Super Bowl and win it. We know it's not going to be an easy task but we feel we have the talent and the team to do it."