The Cincinnati Bengals are heading into the new NFL season with the hunger of a young team who overcame every single hurdle put in their way, bar the final one.
Zac Taylor's team fought their way through one of the toughest schedules to finish on top of a notoriously-competitive division and then, with three incredibly cool playoff performances, reached the Super Bowl.
On reflection, they probably got there one or two years ahead of even the most optimistic Bengals fan's schedule - but the foundations are clearly in place for another exciting year at the Jungle.
However, some old habits die hard and a lowball contract offer to star safety Jesse Bates has the potential to destabilize the locker room and knock the team off course.
NFL, 2022/23 season
Across the United States, games also scheduled for London, Munich and Mexico City
September 8th 2022 - February 12th 2023
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NFL Game Pass, ESPN, CBS, FOX, NBC, NFL Network
BUF Bills +600, TB Buccaneers +700, KC Chiefs +1000, LA Rams +1000, GB Packers +1200
1st AFC North (10-7), lost in Super Bowl LVI.
A return to the Super Bowl would be sweet for the Bengals, who are +900 to win the AFC Championship, and not having to face a team in their own backyard again would be sweeter.
Cincy lucked out in a way last year as their schedule looked hard on paper but, when analyzed after the season, it turned out to be the third-easiest when judged on opponents' final win totals.
Zac Taylor's team, who are -145 to make the postseason, face another tough path to the playoffs as things stand - but AFC North rivals Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns are bedding new quarterbacks in and may be less competitive than usual.
Their main rivals for the division appear to be the +160 Baltimore Ravens, with the Bengals at +190 to follow up last year's success with another.
The Steelers, who lost both home and away games to the Bengals last year, head to Paul Brown Stadium on opening weekend.
Mike Tomlin's men somehow managed to finish 9-7-1 and sneak into the postseason, despite some pretty ordinary quarterback play from Ben Roethlisberger.
Big Ben has chimed for the last time in 2021 and the Steelers seem to be hedging their bets on his replacement.
Former Chicago Bears starter Mitchell Trubisky has been confirmed as Tomlin's starter, with rookie Kenny Pickett waiting for his chance to step up.
The impending match-up with Steelers pass rusher J.J.Watt would have been a nightmare a year ago when the Bengals gave up 70 sacks between the regular and postseasons.
But Cincinnati acquired three new veteran starters on the O-line this offseason and should keep Joe Burrow upright for longer.
A Week 15 road match-up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks daunting and the Bengals go next to New England to face Bill Belichick in Gillette Stadium.
And if Cincinnaiti were expecting an easy finish to the season to allow Taylor to rest his troops and recuperate for the playoffs, they must think again.
Week 17 sees the Super Bowl favourite Buffalo Bills travel to Ohio for a Monday Night Football match-up and then, on a short week, the Bengals host a re-tooled Baltimore Ravens team in a potentially decisive final regular season clash
Taylor was a bit of a risk appointment when the Bangals plucked him from Sean McVay's Los Angeles Rams staff in 2018.
Patience was needed when the team went 0-11 for the worst start to a season in franchise history back in 2019, but things began to pick up once Burrow was drafted in 2020.
After reaching the Super Bowl last year, Taylor is nobody's secret any more and is recognised as of the brightest minds in the AFC.
OG Alex Cappa (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
C Ted Karras (New England Patriots)
TE Hayden Hurst (Atlanta Falcons)
OT La'el Collins (Dallas Cowboys)
TE Nick Eubanks (Detroit Lions)
CB Abu Daramy-Swaray (Potsdam Royals)
DT Larry Ogunjobi (Pittsburgh Steelers)
CB Darius Phillips (Las Vegas Raiders)
OT Riley Reiff (Chicago Bears)
OG Quinton Spain
WR Auden Tate (Atlanta Falcons)
TE C. J. Uzomah (New York Jets)
DE Wyatt Ray (Jacksonville Jaguars)
OG Fred Johnson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Daxton Hill (1st round)
Ja'Marr Chase's incredible rookie campaign in which he undoubtedly became the most impactful first-year wide receiver in the history of the game - took the Bengals up two or three levels.
His 81 catches on 128 targets from Joe Burrow netted 1,455 receiving yards for an average of 18.0 yards per catch and 13 receiving TDs.
Burrow went from 13 TD tosses in his ten starts of 2020 to 34 in 16 starts last year as Chase's mere presence on the field opened up the offense.
Third-string running back Chris Evans flashed enough in the limited opportunities that came his way as a rookie to suggest a breakout second-year is possible.
He was handed 17 rush attempts during the regular season, averaged a respectable 4.5 yards per pop, and forced a missed tackle almost one in every three times he carried the ball.
The former sixth-rounder was a shifty receiving option too, averaging just over 10 yards per catch on 15 receptions and he also forced another five missed tackles.