Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Wednesday Morning Thoughts: NFL Week Nine
(Not) The Same Old Bengals
Off to an 8-0 start and seemingly clicking on all facets of the game...
It's hard. It's hard to trust these Bengals.
After so many years of watching Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals revert to their "usual" form in the playoffs after stellar seasons, it's hard not to blame people for sleeping on this team. Many of us (myself included) thought it was a miracle that head coach Marvin Lewis has still kept his job after all these years. Sure, regular season success is desired. However, all the hard work, time, and effort results in nothing if no playoff wins follow suit.
This isn't pee-wee football. No moral victories over here.
Yet the Bengals are putting up actual W's on their record, and are one of three undefeated teams left in the league. Andy Dalton looks like the quarterback his potential showed him to be, and has the Bengals averaging nearly 30 points per game, with the help of Tyler Eifert, AJ Green and the running combination of Gio Bernard/Jeremy Hill. The defense is also holding their end of the bargain, allowing a mere 17.8 points per game.
Cincinnati passes the eye exam, but why not the heart exam? Visual evidence this year should suggest otherwise, but why are we hesitant to announce this team is for real?
Perhaps it's because history repeats itself.
These Bengals are the same ones that, for the past few years now, have fallen apart come playoff time. When push comes to shove, we will benefit the known over the unknown. Unfortunately for Andy Dalton, despite his phenomenal play this season, he is still subject to expectations of drastically declining in his play when the postseason arrives. Defensively, there is no room to brag as well, as the Bengals have given up 25.75 average of points in their last four seasons in the wildcard round, all resulting in losses.
Fortunately, us as analysts and fans alike will get a better grasp of who this team actually is down the stretch of the season, as the Broncos, Cardinals and another match-up with the Steelers await. With much football left to be played, it's never too safe to assume anything that goes on in the NFL, and such a statement should be backed up with an old saying, "call it how you see it".
Cincinnati is 8-0. so we'll just leave it at that.
Colts Out of Luck, Rest of AFC South Isn't
I had thought that last year's NFC South division had taken the crown of "worst/most interesting" division, yet this season I've been proven wrong once more.
Welcome to the AFC South!
The division leader, the Indianapolis Colts, have a 4-5 record and have just lost quarterback Andrew Luck for two-six weeks with a lacerated kidney. TY Hilton is struggling to stay healthy, Andre Johnson is a shell of his former self, and the offensive line just isn't holding up. The defense is ranked 29th overall and show few spots for improvement in the second half of the season.
Behind these Colts are the Houston Texans at 3-5. Think your team's QB situation is bad? Head coach Bill O'Brien practically flipped a coin on deciding between Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett (Mallett is no longer with the team, and if you didn't know, you're just as late as he was). After watching Arian Foster go down with a pair of injuries, Alfred Blue has done little with his chances. The defense is under-performing to certain extents, yet it's fairly easy to say that when the offense provides little help on their end. However, Houston does have a few shining stars. JJ Watt quietly is tied for second in the league with 8.5 sacks, and DeAndre Hopkins continues his coming out tour this year, being 3rd in the NFL in receiving yards and adding six touchdowns as well.
Tied for last place in the AFC South, but ironically still having a decent shot to win the division, are the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans, both clubs sitting at 2-6. These two teams feature young quarterbacks that have the potential to be legitimate franchise quarterbacks, and other young talent spread across the board. However it's simply the talent part that is lacking, as both franchises are still in the transitional stages to try and compete on a consistent basis.
The general feel of the AFC South has a questionable, "I don't know" aura to it. After all, it's the only division with all four teams below a .500 record at this time, a trend rarely followed in the NFL.
With absence comes opportunity, and now there's plenty of it. Since Andrew Luck arrived in Indy, the AFC South has been a constant case of chasing after the Colts. With Luck now missing significant time this year and three other hungry teams wanting to end Indianapolis' reign of terror, anything resides in the realm of possibility. You just might not want to watch it with your own eyes.
Quarterbacks Wanted, Apply Within
The one position that simply cannot be overrated lies at quarterback. The helm of all decisions and adjustments, the quarterback possesses enough power to solely win or lose a football game. The life of an NFL signal-caller is more times than not short, and with new changes of scenery mixed with new batches of young guns coming in the league, these guys may or may not have their jobs by the start of next year:
Gone for good: Kirk Cousins OR Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
It's not brain science to see that the Redskins have been lacking a franchise quarterback since the downfall of Griffin after his injury during his rookie campaign. The Washington Redskins need to restart from the bottom up, and future plans do foresee a quarterback being drafted. Neither Griffin or his protege Kirk Cousins have met the standards of the organization after many chances to prove they belong, and one, if not both, will see the door this off-season. It's just a matter of which under-performing player, and when the possibility turns into an reality.
On the fence: Brian Hoyer, Houston Texans
This really depends on how Hoyer performs the rest of the way. Brian has a shot to prove to the Texans organization that he is indeed the man moving forward after this year by rallying his team and competing for a division title. His performances in the past have been proven to be shaky more times than not, however in 2015 Hoyer has a 13-3 Touchdown/Interception ratio, and will not have to worry about job security with the departure of Ryan Mallett. On one hand, Hoyer could easily prove his worth and importance to the Texans, should he be given the proper tools around him. On the other, Bill O'Brien might want to start fresh, and would love to make a dream become a reality by reuniting with former Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg via the NFL Draft.
Staying for good: Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns
As much fan as it is to speculate with Johnny Manziel up in Cleveland, Josh McCown has proven to be the Browns' starting quarterback since day one. The window for Manziel to seize opportunity and grow with his team has far passed by, and I think Cleveland management and head coach Mike Pettine have finally come to terms with that. Although there is a possibility to upgrade at this position, there are far too many holes to try to patch up for McCown to lose his job... At least for one more year.