The Cincinnati Bengals are legit…or at least are on the precipice of legitimacy. They won one of the best football games I’ve watched in a while, last week, and play the Miami Dolphins, this week, right before their hated rivals, next week. Trap game this, ripe for an upset that (They are currently favored by five), regardless of how you pluck it, this feathery matchup is as must a must-win as they must.
The Bengals have played the fins 21 times in the two franchises’ history, having lost 15 of those games. Cincinnati won the last matchup, in 2016, at Paul Brown Stadium, but Marvin is 3-3, overall, against Miami.
What has worked for the Bengals in 2018 (Andy Dalton to AJ Green) was what led them to a victory in 2016 against the Dolphins. I mentioned it in the wide receivers matchup post, but AJ whooped up on the Miami secondary with 10 catches, 173 yards, and the lone Bengals TD. Mike Nugent then kicked a million field goals to give the Bengals a 22-7 win.
This year, Dalton to Green has led to the all-pro wideout leading the AFC in touchdown receptions, with five. The passing game has even flourished outside of Green, considering he isn’t the team leader in receptions orreceiving yards. I can count on one finger the number of times I remember hearing that.
Tyler Boyd and his 26 receptions (6th in AFC) for 349 yards (5th) are atop the Bengals regiment of receivers, which just further affirm James’s nickname for him ofAndy’s Safety Blanket.
Getting to the ground game, Joe Mixon returns in week five. Gio Bernard, though, goes down for a few weeks with a knee injury. Sounds familiar as Joe missed the last two weeks with a knee injury. Mixon will look to pick up where he left off after gaining 179 yards in two games. Miami actually ranks just one spot above the Bengals in rush defense, this season, having allowed 442 yards. The opposition has scored four times against them, but the blueprint must be to take the air out of the ball, as teams have more rushing attempts against Miami, minimizing the Dolphins yards allowed per carry to 3.7. With Gio going down, and the Bengals, essentially, still running with two backs, I don’t expect a heavy dose of running, unless Thomas Rawls is activated.
Boy, it’s been tough this season for the Bengals defense. Despite having a plethora of talent in the front seven, the Bengals rank 27th in total defense and have given up 28.3 points per game. Much to all of Bengaldom’s joy, Vontaze Burfict returns to action in week five and figures to play around 60% of the snaps, out of the gate. It will be interesting to see if he’s ready to acclimate to all of the rule changes, initially, or if there be an adjustment period.
In their history, the Bengals have allowed 469 points to the Dolphins. Since Marvin took over in Cincy, the Fins have averaged just 17 points per, though, so maybe they will get the defense going this week.
I hate to overuse this saying, because mathematically this isn’t true, but, this is a must win for the Bengals. This game is a tone setter for the rest of the season. If they enter the Steelers game with just one loss, then they already have the upper hand. Should they win that game, too, then the division is theirs to lose. Joe Mixon will need to get plenty of touches, whether by hand off or pass, and Andy will need to mitigate the mistakes and not throw the ball to any Miami defenders.
Defensively, the coverage has a chance to get right this week as the Dolphins receivers are right at league average, talent-wise, maybe a little below average. The defensive line will have its first chance to showcase its ability to get to the quarterback as both the center and one of the guards will not play for the Dolphins.
Bringing it Home
This is not the Falcons offense that the Bengals defense got torched by, last week. This is a beatable offense that has overachieved, thus far in 2018. It won’t be a blowout, as there are few of those in the NFL, but this should be a good win for the Bengals, as long as they stay grounded and focused. Marvin has been a good driver of the “do your job” mentality, and this is another good example of a situation for him to excel in. I’m thinking the defense forces a turnover, or two, and keeps Tannehill on his back for most of the game. Andy and the offense will take it from there.
Prediction: Bengals win 28-17
Check out @lockedonBengals on Twitter as well as my handle @jefffcarr. I will be tweeting about football and other lovely things.
Blog of Football Sorrows: Week 13
Today I officially changed the name of this game recap blog. It just fits. To be positive about this iteration of the Bengals is to be a master of the mind that I cannot comprehend (aka delusional).
They’re done. I didn’t think they had much hope for the playoffs before the game, and they certainly don’t now. The injuries are a problem, but they aren’t the problem. The offense has been stale for weeks thriving on an identity-less scheme filled with dink and dunk passes and zero creativity. They now have four games left. The Raiders seem winnable, but with the hope of starting over, do we fans want that? Do we want there to be a glimmer of hope in management’s eyes? I don’t. I want change, and that doesn’t happen by winning any remaining games, this year. Lose em all, blow it up, let’s start fixing the problems that have been ignored for too long.
Jeff Driskel, to no fault of his own, was meh. Which is much the story of 2018. The game plan, in the beginning, seemed to be for him to get momentum built through screens and flat routes…but then they kept the training wheels on. Second quarter, third quarter…it kept going. The Bengals fell behind on the scoreboard and their answer was to run more crossing routes and short outs? Cincinnati ran RPO plays…and only passed. They asked an athletic quarterback who can move to stand tall in the pocket and fend off pressure from a defense with its ears pinned back matching up with a bad and battered offensive line. Kind of like James mentioned on the post-game pod, how bad is Cedric Ogbuehi that the answer to filling in for Cordy Glenn is the starting left guard and not your former first round pick, who is actually supposed to be a left tackle? So the coaching game plan was to tell Driskel to grin and bear it behind an uninspired line with uninspired play calling? But, you know, Marvin Lewis says “We’ve got to do our jobs better. The players have to execute the game plan the way it is coached.” What? The game plan hasn’t changed in 10 years! Different personnel, different opponents, different circumstances, same stale, boring, dull, lifeless, clueless plan. I get sick to my stomach when I listen to Marvin do a press conference.
The only thing left is the future, whatever may come. I know that is bleak. Not one of you reading these words can say, with a straight face, that you can see a different coach roaming the sidelines in 2019 who isn’t Marvin or Hue Jackson. We know. We know there isn’t going to be any change, and that’s why the stadium is empty. That’s why the orange in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium was Bronco orange and not Bengal orange. The sound at the end of the game? Cheers and applause, because anyone still there was a fan of the visiting victors. There’s no one left to boo because they’ve been booing for so long they’ve lost interest. It is understood that the most likely outcome this season, if change comes at all, is that Hue takes the reigns. We’ll go from a boring, uninspired, regularly out-maneuvered coach to a joke of a coach. So how can anyone care? I looked at tickets before the game. You could have sit 12 rows back in the endzone for $35…and I said no. Why? Because the joke that is the visual of the stands at PBS is the last thing we fans have left to tell ownership to get their rear in gear and fix this. Will they? You tell me…
Follow @jefffcarr and @lockedonBengals on Twitter for more angst Bengals content.
A lot of Bengals fans (myself included) wondered before the year why a young team with so much talent was pegged with worse Super Bowl odds than our in-state neighbors.
In the eyes of Las Vegas, it didn’t matter that the Bengals rallied to end last season at 7-9 with a signature victory over the Baltimore Ravens. It didn’t matter that the Bengals made legitimate offseason moves to sure up the offensive line. It didn’t matter that Bill Lazor was given a whole offseason to install his system or that Teryl Austin was bringing a turnovers-or-bust mentality with him from Detroit.
It. Didn’t. Matter.
The only thing that mattered was the face of the franchise returning for his 16th year. Marvin Lewis is and always will be the reason people around the NFL don’t take the Bengals seriously and it’s become both a blessing and a curse.
When Lewis arrived in 2003, he inherited what many considered to be one of the worst franchises in pro sports at the time. The players were using old jock straps, it was a dark time in Bengals history. Though to Lewis’ credit, he rebuilt this franchise into something fans could actually be proud of.
They became competitive, they got to the base of Championship Mountain, but that’s not good enough. Of the six coaches in the NFL who’ve been at the helm for at least a decade, Marvin Lewis is the only one without a Super Bowl trophy.
As of Nov. 28, Cincinnati has lost five of their past six games, their defense is the worst in the league, the offense can’t operate without A.J. Green, and they’ve fired one coach in waiting while rehiring another. That go-ahead score against Pittsburgh in mid-October feels like it happened in 2015.
The Bengals might not have moved on from Marvin, but I have, there’s nothing else I need to see following that 35-20 beatdown this past Sunday. ESPN has pegged Lewis with a 60 percent chance to be fired and though this might be for nothing, here are two head coaching paths the Bengals could choose to down in January.
Anyone But Hue Jackson
That’s really all that needs to be said. Hue Jackson is a great POSITION coach, but he has proved over a large sample size that he is inept as a HEAD coach. Jason La Canfora reported before the Browns game that Jackson has a real shot to replace Lewis if he steps down or takes a front office role.
Fans would be less excited about this than retaining Lewis, especially if he’s in the building overseeing nine of the 10 or 11 losses this team is headed for. Who are we kidding here, this is Lewis’ best friend and if anyone has shown the ability to persuade Mike Brown over the last 16 years, it’s Marvin Lewis.
Jackson is the clear frontrunner if a coaching change ends up happening.
A former Bengals player from 1995-98, This is the home run hire for Cincinnati. Bieniemy is in his first season as offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs and I don’t have to throw stats in here to prove why that’s been a success.
As a former player for the franchise, Bieniemy has that familiarity that Brown always looks for in new hires. He could come in and immediately offer a fresh perspective on this roster, answer the Andy Dalton question, and start to move this organization into a new era.
Bieniemy has primarily coached running backs before taking over for Matt Nagy this season and some great ones at that: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Kareem Hunt have all learned and thrived under Bieniemy. Imagine his expertise paired with the talent of Joe Mixon.
Oh and for those concerned with the “lack of coaching experience” after just one season as an OC, just look at the past two guys to hold Bieniemy’s current spot. Doug Pederson went from Chiefs OC to winning a Super Bowl, Nagy has turned the Bears from a laughing stock to a contender in his first season. Those expectations might not be fair for Bieniemy, but the blueprint is out there for Mike Brown to make a championship hire.
A Sucker Until the Bitter End
Am I frustrated? Yes. Do I look back at week 5 when the Cincinnati Bengals sported a 4-1 record and feel as though that was a lifetime ago? Sure. Here’s the thing, Stephen A. Smith said, and I don’t remember word for word, but if you continue to support the Bengals who continue to refuse to put a competent product on the field then you are a sucker. I must confess, I am a sucker.
Sure, I am in the camp that is counting down the days until things change…even though I do not know when that countdown will end. You can check out my last post for reference. That being said, I am still going to be a fan. I’m still rooting for my team. That won’t change. Heck, I even mentioned that I might go to the game, this Sunday, if I can get a deal on some lower bowl tickets.
I had a buddy tell me he’d rather get hit by a car than go to the game, and I can’t blame him. Heck, there might be more value in staying away from the stadium, to get the point across to Mr. Brown. Here’s the thing, though, I am actually sort of looking forward to what will happen with Jeff Driskel. Now, I’m not saying I want him to be theguy, but entertain me for the rest of the season. When we think of football, that’s the basis of what we’re looking for, entertainment. I believe Driskel has the possibility to be entertaining. Urban Meyer once thought he could be the next Tim Tebow. What that tells me is he has heart and toughness. Joe Goodberry broke down a play in which Andy Dalton ran against the Browns and Driskel later ran, against the exact same defensive look. Andy threw a pick and Driskel threw a TD, so who knows? Maybe this won’t be that awful.
So what are you thinking about the Bengals? Are you burning jerseys? Are you cancelling season tickets? Are you switching allegiances? Hit me up on the Twitter (@jefffcarr), or here in the comments section, I want to get a gauge. I don’t blame you if you do any of that, by the way. I can see why you’d want to switch allegiances (just don’t be a Steelers’ fan, that would be messed up). Just know that I will be here, still. There’s something in my DNA that no matter what Mr. Brown and the gang try to do to my fan heart, I keep coming back. It might physically hurt me to no longer be a Bengals fan, I don’t know, but I’m not going to find out. I keep hanging on to that super-slim hope that one day there will be a Super Bowl ring. One day I’ll get to sing “We are the Champions” in regards to my Bengals, and that will be enough to erase all these years of wondering if I could have better used my time on Sunday.