Burrow threw for a season-high 348 yards passing as the Bengals beat the Bills 24-18 on Sunday in a prime-time game that kicked off shortly after his preferred bedtime, and he’s playing some of his best football since the Week 7 bye.
“You’ve got to get your sleep to recover,” Burrow said. “If you want to be your best, you’ve got to sleep and let your body recover to maximize everything you can get out of your athleticism. Depending on the time of day, I’ve got a routine. Every day I go to bed at a certain time.”
It’s a routine he said he’s been doing since he got to the NFL, though some of his other unspecified regimens have evolved since his rookie year.
Boyd said that’s “too early” for him to go to bed, but admitted he takes naps. He doesn’t question Burrow’s routine because it clearly works for him — especially when he doesn’t have an injury holding him back.
The Bengals’ four-game winning streak began as Burrow started feeling better about the calf injury he re-aggravated in Week 2. Against Arizona on Oct. 8, Burrow recorded his first 300-yard passing game of the season, then struggled in the second half the next week after throwing touchdown passes on each of the first two drives against Seattle. The bye allowed him to come back in Week 8 fully healthy, and he completed 87.5 percent of his passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-17 win at San Francisco.
Boyd said Burrow is officially “back.”
“That first game we started to get rolling and he started to get better, that’s when I’m like, ‘The real Joe’s back,’” Boyd said. “I didn’t look at it as he’s on a whole other level. He’s just back to where he’s been on that Super Bowl run and the last two years we had. As long as he stays healthy and guys make plays for him, he’s always going to be one of, if not the best, quarterback in the league.”
Having his top targets available to make those plays might be a challenge this week. Ja’Marr Chase didn’t practice Wednesday while he’s still sore from a back injury he suffered Sunday, and now Tee Higgins is dealing with a hamstring that cut his practice short Wednesday. Cincinnati did rookie get wide receiver Charlie Jones back Wednesday, as he was cleared to practice, opening a 21-day window to activate him to the roster following a thumb injury that sent him to injured reserve on Sept. 29.
It’s still early in the week, but the injuries are concerning with Houston (4-4) coming in hot Sunday and a big AFC North tilt coming up on short rest next Thursday at Baltimore (7-2). Burrow isn’t ready to say the Bengals (5-3) are back in that same way others say they are. With nine games left, he noted they “still got a lot to play for” but are “in a good spot.”
Cincinnati still has ground to gain to catch up to the AFC’s current top team, the Kansas City Chiefs (7-2), but the Bengals believe with Burrow playing as well as he has the last two weeks, anything is possible. His odds of winning the league MVP award have significantly improved over the four-game winning streak and will continue to do so if the team keeps winning games behind his charge.
Since the win over Buffalo, his MVP odds went from +2000 to +900. Four weeks ago, he sat at +4000 and a week before that +8000. Burrow said he “eventually” would like to win an MVP but acknowledged how tough that is.
“Everything has to go right for you to win that award,” Burrow said. “You usually have to have the best record. A lot of things play into it. I’d like to win one eventually. But it’s not No. 1 on my list for sure.”
Burrow is still hopeful he can make this the best year of his career regardless of the slow start. Over a 1-3 start for the team, he averaged just 182.0 yards passing and totaled just two touchdowns.
“I feel like going into every year that’s my goal, to play better than I did the year before,” Burrow said. “I’m trending that way. But like I said, still a lot of football left to be played. A lot of plays to play, a lot of games to play, a lot of practices to get better That’s how we’ve got to take it.”
“Everything is trending in the right way,” he added. “I’m accurate with the football right now. I’m making the right decisions. I’m happy with how I’m playing. I’ve got to continue to get better.”
Texans at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7