The NFL regular season has reached the midway point and not without some surprises. Who would have thought that the Kansas City Chiefs would be the league’s lone undefeated team at 8-0? Equally as surprising, the Steelers, Texans, and Falcons are near the bottom of the NFL pile after being widely predicted to make a run at their respective division titles. I guess that’s why they play the games! A team has never won the Super Bowl without showing up and playing the games. Below are my top five power rankings for Week 9. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
1. Kansas City Chiefs 8-0
The Chiefs struggled late in the game against the Browns, but ultimately did what good teams do – they win ugly. In every championship season, winning teams will gut out some ugly wins and barely escape with the victory. But in the NFL a win is a win regardless of what it looks like.
2. Denver Broncos 7-1
Peyton Manning has finally shown signs of being human lately. He is also beginning to show his age. In the last few weeks his health has been the subject of much debate. No one can argue his Hall of Fame career or unbelievable season to date, but the retirement party is clearly on the horizon for Peyton. Meanwhile, the return of Von Miller has certainly strengthened the defense for their second half run.
3. Seattle Seahawks 7-1
Speaking of winning ugly… The Seahawks had a gut check week much like the Chiefs did. They went into St. Louis to play a bad team who recently lost their starting quarterback. The Rams reached out to Brett Favre last week but he turned down the opportunity to return for what would have truly been a spectacle. Things must be bad when you start calling senior citizen centers in search of a starting QB. Everyone expected a blowout in Edward Jones Stadium. Everyone but the Rams that is.
4. New Orleans Saints 6-1
The Saints are quietly putting up a great season. They have battled late in a couple of games this season, but held on to get the win. Drew Brees continues to just be a great quarterback and leader. The Saints may be the team that no one wants to face in the play-offs especially in the Super Dome.
5. 3 way Tie: Indianapolis 5-2, Cincinnati 6-2, and San Francisco 6-2
I don’t often list teams in a tie, in particular, a three-way tie. However, a really good case could be made for each of these teams to be at number 5. Andrew Luck has successfully lifted his team to the top shelf after replacing perhaps the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. Meanwhile, the Bengals are red hot and look prepared to run away with their division. If their offense begins to run smoothly with all of the parts in place the rest of the league had better look out. And we can certainly make a case for the Niners whose only losses have come to two teams also in the top 5: Indy and Seattle. The Niners are looking dangerously tough recently and we had better plan to see them playing deep into the play-offs.
There’s an old saying that claims that death and taxes are the only two things in life that are truly inevitable. I disagree. I have faithfully cheered for the Cincinnati Bengals for my entire life, or at least since being old enough to watch, play, and understand the sport. While I do not consider myself a football “expert” by any stretch of the word, I do feel as though I am qualified to speak intelligently on the historical accomplishments and blunders of the Bengals. I was there during the 1990’s, so I’m using the word “blunders” graciously!
So here is my list of ten things that you can count on to happen in every Cincinnati Bengals football game.
10. A disproportionate amount of off-tackle running plays.
The Bengals are not known for their offensive creativity. In a passing league, Marvin Lewis remains an “old school” smash mouth coach. Expect to see Ben Jarvus Green Ellis go off-tackle for two yards over and over again. Here’s hoping that the addition of Gio Bernard will change things in time.
9. In nearly every game the Bengals are good for at least one turnover in critical situations. For example, Andy Dalton threw an interception today against the Bills just outside the red zone. In their season opener loss to the Bears, Mohammad Sanu fumbled inside the red zone resulting in the potential loss of much needed points.
8. The Bengals defense will have their opponent on a 3rd and 17 only to allow an 18 yard pass for a first down to sustain a scoring drive. Seen it more times than I can count.
7. The Bengals opponent will get the ball near the end of the first half with a full field between they and the endzone. Lax defense will allow the team to march 60-80 yards in less than 90 seconds to give up a throw away field goal or touchdown which almost always comes back to haunt them later.
6. Not everything is negative in Bengal Land. In every game you can count on the Bengals looking absolutely brilliant on a series or two. This sounds like a positive but, in fact, it is a negative because we see what they have the potential to be if they could only overcome their inconsistency.
5. The inability to smell blood in the water and put a team away. It’s common for the Bengals to play well for 2-3 quarters and have their opponent on the ropes only to allow an amazing comeback that results in a dramatic Cincinnati loss. (Please see both of the Bengals last minute Super Bowl losses as proof)
4. That leads to me to my next point which is that the Bengals opponent will always make a run regardless of the score. Even in games that they do win we often see them give away a big lead only to win a nail biter (see today’s victory in Buffalo as evidence.)
3. The Bengals have the unique ability to make a rookie or untested veteran look like a Hall of Fame player. Again, just visit today’s game in Buffalo. Injuries forced the Bills to call a quarterback off the practice team earlier this week. One would think that such inexperience would result in a blow-out win for the Bengals, but one would be wrong!
2. The Bengals frequently play up or down to the level of their opponents. Last week the Bengals played the Patriots well and notched a big win. They played like a serious play-off caliber team. Today against the Bills, and earlier in the season against the Browns, they played down to the level of two clearly inferior opponents. In the process they lost to the Browns and nearly lost to the Bills. Great teams always the games that they are supposed to win.
1. And the number 1 thing that you can always count on during a Bengals game is asking yourself, “Why do I root for this team?” It can be hard to be a Bengal fan and you can expect a great deal of second guessing of your allegiance to a team that more often than not leaves you scratching your head and asking, “Why?”
- Bengals escape in overtime against Bills (profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Bengals vs. Bills: Bengals improve to 4-2 after 27-24 overtime win against the Bills (cincyjungle.com)
I like Marvin Lewis. A lot. I like the professional way in which he has represented the Bengals over the years. I like the way he has reached out to players in personal distress and seen many of them turn their lives around. I like the many contributions he has made to his community. Coach Marvin Lewis has exemplified likability and loyalty which are two character qualities that go a long way with owner Mike Brown and the Cincinnati fan base.
However, there comes a time when NFL coaches need to win football games. That time has come for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals. We all know what a tremendous man Coach Lewis is. He has proven himself in those areas, but its time to win.
Yesterday’s loss is clearly on Coach Lewis and his staff. The Bengals are are a clearly superior team to the Cleveland Browns. Many have predicted the Bengals to play in the Super Bowl, or at least go deep into the play-offs. They have added tremendous talent on both sides of the ball. They have drafted well and made key free agents acquisitions. They have a quality team that is loaded with talent and ability.
So why does such a talented and superior team line-up against a struggling opponent and play as poorly as the Bengals played yesterday? Coaching. Preparing a team to play well and demanding that from your players is squarely on the head coach. And it appears that Marvin Lewis, as likable as he may be, simply cannot get his team fired up enough to beat an inferior opponent with a quarterback making only is second start in the NFL.
The Bengals were not just defeated yesterday. They were manhandled. The high powered offense that supposedly makes defensive coordinators lose sleep was totally silenced by the Browns defense. The Bengals ferocious defensive front allowed a rookie quarterback to play like a Hall of Famer. No passion. No emotion. No determination to win, and that is on the head coach. Perhaps losing has become acceptable to an organization so familiar with it.
If it were not for a double fumble and a crazy, fortuitous bounce at the end of the Bengals-Packers game the team with such a high ceiling would be 1-3 right now. With the Patriots next on the schedule don’t expect winning to get any easier in the near future.
I like that I like you Coach Lewis, but the time has come to win.
Week 4 presents a number of intriguing match-ups as the 2013 NFL season heads into the first turn. Among the interesting match-ups are:
1. New York Giants (0-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
Can Eli and the Giants really start 0-4? I know that the G-Men are notoriously slow starters but 0 and 4? Really? Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium is one of the NFL’s toughest road environments and Andy Reid has his team hitting on all cylinders right now.
2. Seattle Seahawks (3-0) at Houston Texans (2-1)
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks look really, really strong right now. The Texans, on the other hand, is a team that many believed would make a Super Bowl push behind Defensive star J.J. Watt. This might be the best game of the week and reminiscent of the O.K. Corral.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2)
Round 1 of the Battle of Ohio will take place on the shores of Lake Erie. The Bengals are clearly the better team but the Browns announced last week that they were going to play with reckless abandon. A team with nothing to lose is always dangerous.
4. Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-0)
A battle of unexpected unbeaten teams. Are the Dolphins for real? Will Drew Brees be Drew Brees? There is no bigger stage than Monday Night Football and the world will be watching to see if Miami will shrink from the moment.
The Bengals and Packers combined for one of the most bizarre finishes in NFL history yesterday. The Bengals took an early lead by scoring 14 quick points with the help of a special teams turnover. The fumble and resulting quick touchdown did nothing, however, to demoralize the Packers. Aaron Rodgers, in his typical cool-headed manner, marched his team up and down the field on the Bengals defense. In the process, the Cheeseheads scored 30 unanswered points to take a 30-14 lead late into the fourth quarter.
That’s when things really got crazy! Nearing the 4 minute mark, the Packers appeared to gain a first down on a rushing play in Bengals territory. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis challenged the spot claiming that the runner was down before reaching first down yardage. After review, the call was reversed and the ball spotted behind the first down marker, leaving the Packers at 4th and inches.
The routine call would have been for the Packers to kick a field goal and add to their point lead. However, in a decision that Green Bay fans will second guess for a long time, the Packers went for it on 4th down. Aaron Rodgers handed the ball off to rookie running back, Jonathon Franklin who went off tackle right. A stout Bengals D-line stuffed Franklin and in the course of play, he fumbled the ball which was picked up by Bengal safety Reggie Nelson. After taking just a few steps toward the end zone, Nelson was tackled, and he too fumbled the ball. This time it took a few fortuitous bounces and landed in the lap of Bengals cornerback Terrance Newman who ran it back 58 yards for a Bengals touchdown. The score gave the Bengals a 34-30 lead with just 3:47 left in the game.
Bengal fans cringed as they watched Aaron Rodgers engineer a last minute drive that was ultimately thwarted by a incomplete pass on 4th down. The Bengals athletic defensive end, Michael Johnson, went airborne to swat down what may have been a game winning touchdown pass. Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense then sealed the win by taking a knee on two subsequent offensive snaps.
For a franchise that knows the sting of defeat all to well its nice that the Bengals had the ball bounce their way for a change. Literally.
- Bengals barely outlast Packers in wild turnover-fest (cbssports.com)
- NFL: A painful loss for the Packers, who watch the Bengals win on a late fumble return (host.madison.com)
- Newman’s Return Rallies Bengals Over Packers 34-30 (abcnews.go.com)
- Newman’s return rallies Bengals over Packers 34-30 (timesleader.com)
The National Football League has developed another “guideline” that strikes a blow to the NFL of my childhood. Today the league decided that “throwback” jerseys were fine, but “throwback” helmits are not. No longer will we see the great helmits of yesteryear adorned by today’s NFL players. Among the casualties are the white Dallas Cowboy’s helmit, the Patriots minuteman helmit, and perhaps, my favorite helmit of all time, the original Tampa Bay Buccaneer helmit bearing the image of a pirate who became affectionately known as “Buccaneer Bruce.”
On Sunday, October 10, 1976, the Tampa Bay Bucs, in their inaugural season, came to Riverfront Stadium to play the Cincinnati Bengals. I was there to watch my hometown Bengals take on the newest NFL team with the greatest nickname ever. I was the 14 year old boy seated on the 30 yard line screaming his lungs out for both teams. In a bittersweet victory, the Bengals won the game 21-0 behind the AFC’s leading passer Ken Anderson.
Somehow, those now hideous creamsickle uniforms were so cool then. They had that sort of World Football League flair that made them so much different from the mostly drab uni’s of the established NFL dinosaurs. And the best part of the entire uniform was the knife wielding swashbuckler on the helmit. And now, he walks the plank and goes to a watery grave forevermore. Or at least until the rules committee meets together again!
In the meantime, I will mourn the loss of another age old feature of the NFL. No more “stick-um,” no more fumbles when the running back bounces off the frozen ground, no more whiplashing, bone crushing hits on the unsuspecting quarterback, and now, no more “Buccaneer Bruce” either. So long old friend. You will be missed.
- New league policy forces Bucs to scrap Bucco Bruce throwbacks (profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Bucs: NFL rule blocks throwback uniforms (TBO.com)
- Bucs scrap plan for Creamsicle throwback jerseys (cbssports.com)
What is the only thing scarier for a Bengals fan than playing the Steelers on Monday Night Football? Playing the Steelers on Monday Night Football after the Steelers were embarrassed the previous week. In week one of the new NFL season the Steelers were manhandled by the Tennessee Titans and lost 16-9 at home. Trust me, that’s not how the Steelers roll. Even though they have been decimated by injuries the Bengals should expect a gut-check performance from the Steelers. It’s just what they do.
The Bengals do have a few things in thier favor this week. First, the game is played in Cincinnati and a home crowd is always a boost. Don’t be surprised though to see plenty of yellow “terrible towels” waving in the night sky. Pittsburgh fans travel like no other fans. I remember games at Riverfront Stadium when more yellow was visible than orange. Secondly, and much more interestingly, James Harrison plays for the Bengals now. The former Steeler, and perhaps, the most frightening defender in the NFL is wearing orange and black instead of the old Steeler uniform. Add to that, he’s not real happy with his former employer. James Harrison knows how to impact a football game – just ask Colt McCoy.
Statistically, since 1990, any team opening the season at 0-2 has only a 12% shot at making the play-offs. With that said, Cincinnati desperately needs to win this game. They gave one away last week to the Chicago Bears and championship teams just don’t give games away that they lead in the fourth quarter. Monday night will go a long way in helping Bengal fans know if their team really does have the goods to deliver on a play-off season or if this is just another mirage in the desert of NFL wishful thinking.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. It doesn’t seem to matter that the Cincinnati Bengals have drastically improved on paper. On the field, it’s still looking like the 90’s.
The Bengals found a way to give a win away today at Chicago. Up late, and they turned the ball over in the red zone. Then the defense made a run to the hot dog stand and watched from there as Jay Cutler took his team the distance to score a touchdown. Who didn’t know that would happen? Exactly. Some things just never change.
On a good note, every team in the AFC North lost their opener as well. But don’t worry…the Bengals are good at erasing any optimism.
The Bengals head to the Windy City for their season opener against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. The Bears will line up on Soldier Field without Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Brian Urlacher, Walter Payton, or even the “Fridge.”
They will have Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, and Deven Hester in uniform and available to play. Problem is, that doesn’t seem like nearly enough against the newly jacked Cincinnati Bengals. Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis have loaded this team with all sorts of offensive talent and Mike Zimmer has built an imposing defense anchored by Geno Atkins in the middle.
With Jay Cutler playing like, uh, Jay Cutler, and Brandon Marshall being dinged up, don’t expect the Bears to make much impact through the air. The O-line will have trouble with Cincinnati’s ferocious front seven and Cutler will have little time to distribute the ball. For the Bears to stay in the game Matt Forte will have to pound out 100+ yards and a few touchdowns.
Meanwhile, look for Andy Dalton to spread the wealth to his bonanza of big time offensive playmakers. Obviously, A.J. Green will continue to be his “go to” guy but expect Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham to catch some balls down the field as well. The run game should be much improved with the addition of Gio Bernard along with the “Law Firm,” Ben-Jarvus Green Ellis.
No “shuffle” for the Bears this weekend. Prediction: Cincinnati 27 – Chicago 10