Hey there. Can you hear it? It’s getting so close that I can almost taste it. Football is back, baby! Okay, well, sort of. Thursday marks the first preseason game for our beloved Cincinnati Bengals. There will be plenty of story lines to follow, and position battles to be decided. The names we are all familiar with, will be long gone if you do not catch the first drive or two of the game. But there are still players to watch and abounding intrigue. Let’s take a look a at few things that may be worth watching Thursday night.
That Offensive Line
If you’ve watched the Bengals over the past couple of seasons, you are well aware that the offensive line has not been the same since the departures of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. Two highly-drafted tackles later, and the line remains the biggest question mark of the season. This off-season, the Bengals traded for Cordy Glenn, drafted Billy Price, and hired Frank Pollack to coach the group. Glenn has been less than stellar, Price has had his issues snapping the ball, and the new techniques of Pollack have left us with Bobby Hart as the starter at right tackle. None of this is ideal, but it definitely makes for something to watch, so I am in.
Check out Russell Heltman’s story on the work Pollack is doing.
Wide Receivers Not Named AJ Green
We all know that Andy Dalton is a much better quarterback when he’s surrounded by weapons. Thinking back on that 2015 campaign still brings a small tear to my eye. Injury and free agency ruined those times, and now we look to the new guys to bring some renewed excitement. John Ross is healthy and still insanely fast. And while he has had some drop issues in practice, he should add a speed dimension to this offense that has not been seen since… Ever.
John Ross and WJ3 just went step for step until Ross hit an extra gear 40 yards down field.
— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) July 28, 2018
Boy where is you going!?
— Tyler Steege (@TSteegeNFL) July 31, 2018
Another player to watch will be Tyler Boyd. The third year pro has taken this camp by storm. Reports have him catching almost everything, while running exceptionally smooth routes. With him in the slot, and Ross on the outside, this offense could be reminiscent of the Marvin Jones/Mohammed Sanu days. Other players to keep an eye on will be Josh Malone, Cody Core, and Auden Tate. Tate has made a ton of noise in camp, before a head injury kept him out a few days. He is back, and is expected to play on Thursday night. He is not the fastest guy in the world, but when AJ Green refers to you as, “Baby Brandon Marshall,” it’s worth keeping track of number 19.
Auden Tate doing what he does best. pic.twitter.com/zbBUTNjVzE
— Fusue Vue (@lifesyourcup) June 21, 2018
The New Guys
The Bengals spent a lot of draft capital on the defensive side of the ball this year, especially early. Jesse Bates, Sam Hubbard, and Malik Jefferson, will all play varying roles for the defense this year. Of the three, Hubbard seems to be the one most ready to contribute right away. He has rotated all along the defensive line, and has given multiple offensive linemen fits. Increased pressure on the opposing quarterback is always a good thing.
sam hubbard taking on jake fisher at LT, jordan willis taking on cedric ogbuehi at RT pic.twitter.com/LnUPHnaZAF
— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 3, 2018
sam hubbard getting some work inside against trey hopkins pic.twitter.com/u6uB06oqSn
— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 6, 2018
Bates and Jefferson have not done much to impress during camp, but perhaps they are the types of players who shine when the lights come on. It will be worth watching them as the second and third team defenses take the field pretty early in this one.
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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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