A defense that was among the worst in the league last year will make big improvements and be average.
For a team that is looking to try and snag a wild-card spot, the Bengals do not necessarily need to be great on both sides of the ball, but they do need to be decent. Last year, the Achilles heel for Cincinnati was their defense. The inability to get key stops made it very difficult for the offense to keep the team in games after Burrow went down with an injury.
This year, the Bengals have a new look unit that will be a big improvement.
D.J. Reader will come back from injury and team up with Larry Ogunjobi, who is joining as a free agent. This duo will be instrumental in stopping the run up the middle which was a point of struggle last year.
Trey Hendrickson joined the team to be a dominant defensive edge presence to pair up with Sam Hubbard. The biggest difference comes in the secondary where Mike Hilton, Chidobe Awuize, Vonn Bell, and Jessie Bates have looked throughout the preseason to be an improved unit.
The Bengals do not need to have a game-changing defense. But they will have an overall defense in the middle of the NFL, which would end up being a huge improvement. Against the Vikings, the defense will get the chance to show how much better they are against two of the best in the game, Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson.