The Bengals, with their fifth straight win, are quietly tied for first place in one of the toughest divisions in football. Since 1988 no other Bengal team has put together a five game winning streak. The 6-2 record leaves them tied with Baltimore with Pittsburgh a half a game back. Most of the NFL probably doesn’t even know Cincinnati is in the race due to the HUGE shadow the Steelers and Ravens cast over the young Bengals. When people think AFC North its always Pittsburgh and Baltimore and for good reason but the Bengals are doing everything in their power to change that perception this year. The Bengals are an astonishing 4-1 on the road and Andy Dalton continues to impress. In his first eight games Andy has lead three fourth quarter comebacks and never seems rattled. He will have to keep his composure as the Bengals will face Baltimore and Pittsburgh three out of the next four games.
If you’re the type of fan that believes in trap games this would be it for Cincinnati. They eclipsed their total wins last year with the win over Seattle last week and played well in all three aspects of the game. They may be looking ahead to their first matchup with the Steelers next week at Paul Brown Stadium, a game that many say will be the real test to see if this Bengals team is legitimate. Maybe they are underestimating Tennessee because of the lack of production from the hold out running back Chris Johnson or the injured superstar in the making Kenny Britt. These all could lead to a deadly mixture for the Bengals. Much like Cincinnati, Tennessee hasn’t gotten a whole lot of press this year but the truth is they are still in the hunt to win their division trailing Houston by half a game. This Titans team knocked the Ravens off their perch early this season and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Benson will make his return this week from his one game suspension for the Bengals. Look for him to have a big game against a team allowing 129 yards rushing per game. Adam Jones in his return to his former team is listed as doubtful despite him saying he would play against the Titans after the Seattle game. Maulaluga and Gresham are also listed as doubtful allowing Dan Skuta to start at line backer and the tight end combo to see the field again this week. The front seven should continue their dominance against the leagues worst rushing offense but be wary Chris Johnson is way past due for one of his explosive games.
Look for the Bengals to leave Tennessee 6-2 with a win this week. These are the types of games that build confidence in a fan base and locker room and with the upcoming schedule of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh confidence will be needed.
Its that time of the year again, the time of year where some coaches may want to start planning their exit strategy. With the Dolphins being 0-7 and openly looking for a head coach and Indianapolis showing their anger over an 0-8 start the talking heads of the sports world are beginning to look for replacements. Oddly though this year has had less talk of who would replace these coaches once they got the boot. Other than the Cowher, Gruden, and other obvious candidates who may have no interest in ever coaching again, there hasn’t been that “hot” coordinator that is on every failing teams mind like Jason Garret was a few years ago.
Someone who should be getting some attention is the Bengals Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer. While Zimmer has only coached on the defensive side of the ball he has experience in the 3-4 and 4-3 and proven to be very succesful. His defense allowed the fewest yards in 2003 when he was with the Dallas Cowboys. Bengals fans all know what he has done in Cincinnati, making their defense competitive in one of the toughest defensive divisions in football. He has turned this young team into what should be one of the most feared front sevens in football. Even after losing Jonathan Joseph to free agency he has kept this defense ranked in the top five of the league. Zimmer proved his dedication to football two years ago after the tragic loss of his wife. He returned just three days later to coach his defense in a win against Baltimore. After the game he was awarded the game ball by Marvin Lewis in a tear jerking moment. As a Bengals fan I want no part of losing Zimmer but with what the man has given Cincinnati fans he deserves his shot, lets just hope he decides to stick around until after the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.
As the Bengals move to 5-2 the Bengals show what they are capable of in all three phases of the game. Special teams had an amazing game for the Bengals. Adam Jones made his debut in a Bengals jersey for the first time in over a year and it was special. His first and only punt return was a 63 yard return. Jones tweaked his hamstring on the play and didn’t return but his presence was felt. After the injury Brandon Tate had a had two big returns one resulting in a 56 yard touchdown score and the first player to congratulate him was the injured Jones.
On defense Carlos Dunlap is beginning to become a name that will haunt defensive coordinators in their dreams. He came up with a huge sack in the fourth quarter forcing the Seahawks to punt. Geno Atkins added to his sack total and Reggie Nelson had a 75 yard pick six to lock up the game for the Bengals. The Bengals defense also came up with a fumble. Although they allowed over 400 yards in total offense, the Bengals defense had a huge defensive stop from the three at halftime allowing the Bengals to go to the locker room with a 14 point lead.
Offense is the one area the pickiest fans will say needs some work. Andy Dalton was 18/29 for 168 yards two TDs and two INTs. Both interceptions came in the second half but many fans forget Dalton is a rookie and he is going to have these moments as he makes these transitions. His trust with Green continues to grow and seems to be his go to big play guy even to a fault at times. Green had four receptions for 63 yards and a TD with ten targets. With Cedric Benson serving his suspension, Bernard Scott had 22 caries for 76 yards against the league’s best run defense.
With the Titans up next the Bengals start the toughest stretch of scheduling they face this year by far but this young team is continuing to prove that it is going to do what it takes to make good things happen and fans are wondering whether this is season is a trick or treat. Happy Halloween and Who Dey.
On a call placed to 911 Terrell Owens assistant described him taking prescription drugs as an attempt to take his life. T.O.’s publicist is denying that it was a suicidal act, instead Owens had taking his sleeping aid before his assistant arrived. Either way this is a sad story. Owens is most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer when eligible and has had fifteen productive seasons in the NFL. He ranks second in receiving yards and is tied for second with Randy Moss in touchdown receptions. For someone who has accomplished all that he has to even consider suicide before he gets a chance to see his hard work pay off in Canton is mind boggling to me, so I tend to lean to the over worried assistant calling 911 and mismanaging the situation theory. If that’s the case this stunt should all but guarantee that Owen’s career is over in the NFL. He has been flagged as a distraction and this certainly doesn’t shine a favorable light on him. As fans we want players to have heart and be passionate about the game we love to watch but then we criticize them for holding on to long and not wanting to let go of the game that has dictated their entire life since high school. Maybe its time for the NFL to look into offering some transition classes and prepare these players for life outside of football not only to protect the players but the fans for hearing these stories of people who just weren’t ready to let go.
With televisions getting bigger and HD getting better fans are more likely to enjoy the game at home rather than drive down to the stadium to nearly freeze to death, over pay for food, and sit in traffic for an hour to get home. Many teams are exploring options on what they can to motivate fans to leave the couch and enjoy the game in the stadium. Here are a couple of ideas that I have come up with.
1. Seat Upgrades- individuals who purchase season tickets have the option (for a little extra money) to have their hard plastic seats replaced with something a little more comfortable. I know this wont help die-hard fans who stand the entire game but this will make taking your family to a game that much easier.
2. Ticket Upgrades- if a team has premium unsold tickets at the start of the game someone from management selects groups of people from the nose bleeds and moves them to the higher priced seating. This not only allows the stadium to appear more full to the viewers at home, which will make more people want to go to the games, but it also allows those fans who paid for forty dollar tickets to enjoy the two hundred-dollar ticket and maybe next time they opt for better seats.
3. Before/After Game Activities-Tailgating is a major part of going to the games. Teams should be participating in it. Pregame they have contests for the fans and after a win the team should host an official after party. Extend the experience and allow the fans to talk among one another saying how great the game was.
4. Social Media- Facebook check-ins allowing your friends to know you’re at the game is cool but the stadiums need to work with facebook so you can scan your ticket and it checks you in at your seat on a virtual map of the stadium. This way fans could go to the stadiums facebook page see who all is at the game and interact with people from across the stadium. Crowds work alot like mobs they are most effective when they have a voice this will allow that. Cheers will become more creative because more people will be on the same page and people may make a friend or two encouraging them to return to future games.
5. Family Zones- This one seems like common sense but I have yet to see it implemented. The last Bengals game I attended there was a family of four behind me and group of college kids in front of me. The family of four left before the end of the first quarter. Fans are going to get rowdy, drink, and sometimes shout out profane gestures this is never going to stop and trying to keep it under control is just a dream. So why not allow that family of four to sit with other families where its unlikely that as much of that behavior will be happening. They could set up a Jungle Gym nearby for the kids during halftime or when their patience have run out.
These are just a couple of ideas, some are better than others, but the point is teams need to start tackling this problem before they lose the real life fan altogether. The fear of a blackout doesn’t sell tickets anymore lets hope the teams come up with some creative ideas to get fans off the couch and support their team.
After a week off the Bengals remain tied for second place in the AFC North trailing the Steelers by a half of a game. The Steelers beat the Cardinals 32 to 20 and with a tough three game stretch ahead we will soon know who the Pittsburgh Steelers really are.The Steelers face New England, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. With a shocking loss to the Jags, the Ravens fall to second place in the division. As I suspected, the Raven offensive problems have been masked by their defense. Jacksonville shut down Ray Rice, leaving Flacco to carry the load. Some sports writers are saying Flacco isn’t the guy to lead Baltimore to a Super Bowl and personally I agree. Cincinnati heads out to Seattle for a matchup with the Seahawks, who were only capable to put up three points against the Browns this week in a loss. I am confident that the Bengals walk away with a win this week and continue to prove the critics wrong. This young team is taking all the necessary steps to become a winning franchise and winning games they are expected to is part of that journey.