For most fanbases, three consecutive playoff appearances by their team would be viewed as a pretty good accomplishment that would merit some optimism. However, with three straight losses under his belt and an overall 0-5 playoff record on the books, Marvin Lewis received a lot of heat by 2014. Many were shocked he hadn’t been fired following an inexcusable blowout home playoff loss to the Chargers. Many called for Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer to take over for Lewis, but he was not offered the job, so he left for Minnesota – go check out how it’s been working for him. The same heat was starting to go towards quarterback Andy Dalton, as many fans started calling for his backup to be the starter – spoiler alert, 2014 is when AJ McCarron arrived.
Our fun facts for the week – American Sniper was the year’s highest grossing film, but I’m going to expand on that for a moment. The film, arguably Bradley Cooper’s best, grossed just over $89 million in its opening weekend. Let’s compare that to a film also released in 2015 called United Passions – this film, a French drama (though it’s an English-spoken film), grossed $918 during its first weekend. No, that’s not a typo – I did not mean to type $918,000. An astonishing $918 was grossed in its first weekend.
Also, this was the year the ice bucket challenge was popularized in an effort to raise awareness of ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. And finally, an incident occurred at a Kanye West concert where the artist stopped performing in the middle of the song Good Life as he noticed not everyone was standing. The person he was stopping for, in particular, was in a wheelchair… because Kanye West.
Now then, onto the 2014 Bengals who finished a pretty solid 10-5-1, which wound up being good for second place in the AFC North and the fifth-seed in the AFC playoffs. This was a pretty good record in general, but especially so when you consider this team wound up decimated by injuries, which played a part in an offense that was not as good as it was capable of being.
The year’s Draft has largely turned out to be a dud, though there is still hope for first round selection Darqueze Dennard, a cornerback out of Michigan State who most thought was a steal for the Bengals at 24th overall. Other selections included running back Jeremy Hill, center Russell Bodine, quarterback AJ McCarron, and linebacker Marquis Flowers.
Hill – outstanding rookie season aside – was mostly a bust and no longer with the team, Bodine was a below average lineman who is now in Cleveland, and Flowers is actually managing to turn his career around. Following very limited use in Cincinnati, he is now with the Patriots, set for a big role after collecting 32 tackles and 3.5 sacks in limited time last season.
As for McCarron, we will be referencing him a lot over the coming few weeks despite the fact he’s no longer with the Bengals. For his rookie season, he was on the shelf with injuries for the entirety of it.
The 2014 campaign got off to a great start with a 23-16 home win over the Ravens. This game didn’t come without cost – tight end Tyler Eifert, who had started to garner Gronk-level expectations (maybe not that high), endured a nasty elbow injury that ended his season. He had three catches for 37 yards in the first half before his injuries, looking like a dominant force over the middle.
Victories over the Falcons and Titans took the Bengals into their Week 4 bye week feeling good at 3-0. However, they’d come back out to go 0-2-1, including an ugly 43-17 loss to the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. That was the game that featured the infamous “We’re onto Cincinnati” rant from Bill Belichick. Leave it to the Bengals to assure everyone that the Patriots were, in fact, NOT past their time.
Skipping ahead, the Bengals walked into Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on a Sunday night in December of 2014 in what was the NFL’s regular season finale. The game was going to decide the AFC North champion, as the Steelers entered the game 10-5, while the Bengals entered 10-4-1. We know how this story ends – Steelers win, and take the division with them, as well as a home playoff game.
The Bengals, on the other hand, were set for a matchup with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC’s Wild Card round. I’ll preface this – this playoff team was unlike the teams that came before it. This team entered Indy without AJ Green, Marvin Jones (who missed the whole season), Vontaze Burfict, and of course, Tyler Eifert, among others. So depleted were they, the Bengals ended up using Rex Burkhead very heavily as a receiver in various formations throughout the game.
This may not seem so bad given where Burkhead stands in the league now, but at the time, he was, at best, the team’s third running back – say what you want about Marvin not recognizing talent, but the point is that they were forced to use him because they had so few options.
As we know, the game was never really close, as the Bengals lost to the Colts 26-10. Another very pedestrian performance from Dalton did not help things – he went 18/35 on the day with 155 yards… no scores.
As had been the case in the seasons prior, many fans were just defeated after another playoff loss. Sure, no one really had great expectations given the injury bug biting hard, but it didn’t change the fact that the Marvin Lewis era, now over 10 years, had no playoff wins on its resume.
One key factor to note in 2014 was the uncharacteristically average play of Andy Dalton – he threw for an okay 3,398 yards, but only had 19 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Again, part of this can be contributed to injury – he didn’t have Marvin Jones at all, he had Eifert for one half, and Green missed three regular season games, parts of two others, and the entire postseason game.
Speaking of Green, he still had a solid season, if a little underwhelming from an overall standpoint considering his talent – he caught 69 passes for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns. It was up to Mohamed Sanu and Jermaine Gresham to pick up the slack. Sanu caught 56 passes for 790 yards and five scores, while Gresham stepped back into the starting tight end role to the tune of 62 catches for 460 yards and five touchdowns.
It was the running game here in 2014 that carried this offense – rookie Jeremy Hill was outstanding, running for 1,124 yards on an amazing 5.1 yards per carry, and scored nine touchdowns. It turned out to be, by far, Hill’s best season in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, second-year man Gio Bernard ran for 680 yards on four yards per carry, scored five times, and he caught 43 passes with two touchdowns.
The defense, despite losing Mike Zimmer, was decent in general, though not one of the better units they had been in the past. Linebacker Vincent Rey burst onto the scene with 133 tackles in Burfict’s absence, while Reggie Nelson registered 99 of his own, as well as four interceptions. George Iloka and Adam Jones accounted for three picks apiece, and Carlos Dunlap notched eight sacks, continuing his trajectory up the defensive end ladder.
And next week, we have finally arrived at a season that is probably the top of the list in infamy. A promising start to the season wound up getting derailed by an injury to Andy Dalton, and of course, we will be covering the playoff game we would all like to forget… a game that, after watching, forced me to stare blankly at me television for nearly an hour after it ended.
Tune in next week for the wildest season we will cover!
Not Another Bengals, Chiefs Preview
Week seven of the NFL regular season is upon us and the Cincinnati Bengals have a golden opportunity this Sunday on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. Guessing that’s not where your mind went when you thought of this game?
The Bengals and Chiefs have squared off 28 times, over the years, with the Bengals holding a slight 15-13 advantage. Cincinnati holds a four-game winning streak over Kansas City with the last loss coming at Arrowhead in 2007. Marvin Lewis is 6-2 against the Chiefs and 2-2 at Arrowhead. The Lewis-led Bengals have outscored the Chiefs 167 to 136, in their eight meetings.
The last game between these two teams was in week four of the 2015 season. The Bengals won in Paul Brown Stadium 36-21 with four of the touchdowns coming from running plays. Three TDs were scored by Jeremy Hill and the other came from Giovanni Bernard. The lone TD pass was a 55-yarder to Brandon Tate from Andy Dalton.
This is a marvelous chance for Andy and the offense to get back on track. They managed just nine total yards in the third quarter against the Steelers, but will be facing a very pedestrian defensive squad, this coming Sunday night. In two games career games against the Chiefs, Dalton has completed 66% of his passes for 551 yards and three scores. He will face a Chiefs defense that ranks stone cold last in pass defense, allowing 340 yards per game, through the air.
Joe Mixon will be happy, though, as the Chiefs also allow an average of 127 rushing yards, per game. In fact, the Bengals offense, as a whole, should feast on Sunday. They’re averaging 29 points per game and the Chiefs allow 28.7 per game.
They’re banged up, and they’re outgunned in this matchup. Statistically, Cincinnati’s defense has fared only slightly better than Kansas City’s. The Bengals are allowing just over 400 total yards, a game, and 26 points per game. Couple that with the high-flying offense of Patrick Mahomes, who averages 418 total yards and 35 points per game, and I’d say you should bet the over, whatever Vegas has it set as.
Nick Vigil and Darqueze Dennard have been ruled out and Shawn Williams is listed as questionable. Given that eight different defensive starters came off the field last Sunday, at different points in the game, and this coming game may be crazy, simply from a health standpoint.
This matchup has a real chance at being a playoff preview as well as a carbon copy of the Falcons game, a few weeks back. The Chiefs will be in a battle with the Chargers, all season, for the AFC West and the Bengals, though on top for the moment, have no room for comfort with the Ravens and Steelers knocking on the door. Whoever has the ball last in this pivotal game could very well end up the winner.
I’d expect to see a lot of William Jackson and Tyreek Hill matchups. Some have said Hill is the best receiver, in the game, this year so Jackson will need to be on his toes for all 60 minutes. Meanwhile, Kansas City receiving threat 1-B, Travis Kelce, will probably be Teryl Austin’s biggest headache. The Bengals, no matter the personnel or the coaching staff, have always struggled to cover the opposing tight end. Enter, arguably, the best tight end in the NFL with his 468 receiving yards and three TDs. I’m no expert fantasy football predictor, but I’d bet he is a top scorer, this week. And I haven’t even mentioned the Chiefs’ stud running back, Kareem Hunt. Dude is a threat to run all over the place (456 yds, 4th in NFL) and be a pain to the Bengals pass defense (17 yards per catch). Pray for Austin and the Bengals defense.
Bringing it Home
That being said, this is a winnable game for the Bengals. They have the firepower to hang with Kansas City. If you jumped off the wagon after the loss to the Steelers and think the Bengals are going to get absolutely crushed by the Chiefs, you won’t agree with me, so whatevs, but this game isn’t that big of a mismatch. John Ross will be on the field for Cincinnati, giving them their bonafide deep threat to contend with the Chiefs’ big play abilities. AJ Green has nobody to worry about on the Chiefs defense, and will be able to roam free, looking for holes in the coverage. Which just means Tyler Boyd will be able to give as much of his safety blanket-ness to Andy as he can. Should the line have a rough day protecting the pocket, Dalton will have plenty of chances to scramble and make something happen while extending the play. One of these two teams will begin the game hot only to try to slow it down with the rushing game, but I believe both defenses will be porous enough to allow some highlight reel plays deep. This is going to be an entertaining game to watch, if your pacemaker doesn’t give out in the first half. Call me crazy, call me a homer (whatevs, I’m no professional), but I say the Bengals win.
Prediction: Bengals 42, Chiefs 38
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WATCH: Houshmandzadeh says the Bengals are going to beat the Chiefs
Former Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh says the Bengals are going to beat the Chiefs on Sunday night football. He also thinks Andy Dalton’s struggles in primetime games are just a ‘coincidence.’ He was a guest on ‘The Herd’ on Fox Sports One. Watch the video below.
‘Vontaze can be as great as he wants to be’
Vontaze Burfict has been talked about a lot this week. Not for his dominant play, but for a questionable hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 14, 2018
This isn’t new for Burfict. His play has been discussed for years. He’s been fined or suspended 11 times in his career, which has cost him over $1 million in salary.
Some people believe Burfict should be suspended for the rest of the season. Others think he should be out of the NFL forever. There’s no denying that he’s earned his reputation.
Burfict doesn’t like how he’s viewed in the media. If he wants to change it, he can start by playing like an elite linebacker against Kansas City. He doesn’t look like the player he once was. It’s probably because he’s missed so much time over the past few years. Burfict has appeared in 11 games or fewer in his last four seasons due to suspensions and injuries. He hasn’t forced a turnover since 2016, which is the last time he was playing at an elite level.
That leads me to a question that has been asked a lot this week: Is Burfict worth the headache? His teammates certainly think so.
“Vontaze can be as great as he wants to be,” Carlos Dunlap said earlier this week. “And as you’ve seen up to this level he’s played as one of the best linebackers in the league. And I feel like he has the potential to be even better.”
Sunday is an opportunity for Burfict to put on a show. It’s a chance for him to remind people that he is one of the best linebackers in the league. If he goes out there, dominates and does it without any questionable hits, then the entire country will see why the Bengals signed him to two contract extensions. Leading a struggling defense into Kansas City and getting a win would be huge for how people view him. Fans and media could discuss his stellar play, instead of a late-hit or a PED suspension.
He needs to remind people, including fans, that he can be a great player. Burfict just turned 28-years-old. He signed a contract extension with the Bengals last season. There has been plenty of chatter about Burfict this week, but that isn’t bothering rookie safety Jessie Bates.
“He’s so smart and he makes things easier for me communication wise,” Bates said on Wednesday. “Obviously he’s been doing this for a long time. He plays very violent and some people don’t like that. I’m glad that he’s on our team.”
It’s hard to envision Burfict changing at this point, but he can use Sunday to his advantage. He can show a national television audience that he’s able to play the game at a high level and do so without getting fined, flagged or suspended for questionable play.
Once upon a time Burfict was an undrafted free agent who impressed coaches with his knowledge of the game. Fast forward to present day and he’s a ‘dirty player’ who should be suspended or worse. Burfict has a chance to remind everyone of how good he can be. Whether or not he takes advantage of it is up to him.
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