The Bengals had one of the worst offenses last season. They were last in yards and scored seven points or less in five of their 16 games.
Wide receiver John Ross hopes to be part of the solution. Ross was picked ninth overall by the Bengals in the 2017 NFL Draft. He played 17 total snaps as a rookie, battled injuries and didn’t catch a pass.
There have been plenty of stories written about Ross this week and rightfully so. He’s healthy and ready to contribute in 2018.
“I feel better. I feel like I can contribute more,” Ross told me earlier this week. “I know it’s only day one, but I feel good. I feel fresh. I feel strong.”
I’m not sure anyone in the Cincinnati media believes in Ross more than me. I’ve praised the Bengals for drafting him when they did. He will give the offense a tremendous boost as long as he can stay healthy. As important as the former first round pick is, he isn’t the key to turning this offense around.
If the Bengals are going to regain their 2015 form, they’re going to need Joe Mixon to breakout this season. Andy Dalton hasn’t played with a 1,000 yard rusher since Jeremy Hill ran for 1,124 yards as a rookie in 2014. I like Ross and Tyler Eifert. Heck, I think Tyler Boyd has untapped potential, but this team needs Mixon to be great.
The Bengals took Mixon because they believed he was a bell-cow running back. They loved his size and speed, along with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He has all of the tools to be a star in the NFL.
You may be wondering about the offensive line, which has been a weakness for the past two seasons. It may not be a strength this season, but the additions of Cordy Glenn and Billy Price should make them competent. The organization believes new offensive line coach Frank Pollack will get the most out of Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Christian Westerman and the rest of the linemen.
Mixon was drafted in a class with Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt. Every single one of those backs performed well during their rookie seasons. Yes, Cook did suffer a season-ending injury on October 1, but he would’ve been a key cog for Minnesota down the stretch and flashed his potential before his injury.
I believe the Bengals had Mixon right next to Fournette on their draft board. They could’ve had Cook, but they passed. They could’ve selected Hunt or Kamara, who would’ve brought less controversy with them, but they didn’t. They drafted Mixon. They think he can be a star in the league. He has more talent than any running back that Dalton has played with. Greg Cosell of NFL Films thought Mixon was the “most complete” running back in the 2017 NFL Draft. Mixon averaged 3.5 yards-per-carry as a rookie, which was the lowest out of the aforementioned running backs. The Bengals need him to take it to another level in his second season.
Running the ball effectively would alleviate pressure on Dalton, Ross and even A.J. Green. The offense has been overly reliant on Green in recent seasons. It’s up to Mixon to have success on the ground. The Bengals got a first-round talent with the 48th pick in 2017 and they need him to play like it.
“The reason we’re talking about Joe Mixon so much is, he’s a special talent,” Mel Kiper said before the 2017 NFL Draft. “He’s a top-10 pick without an issue. He’s ahead of Leonard Fournette, without an issue. He’s ahead of Dalvin Cook, without an issue. He’s ahead of Christian McCaffrey, without an issue.”
Mixon had an issue. The Bengals took a risk when they drafted him. So many fans look back at the 2017 draft and wonder about the Ross pick, but the Mixon pick was just as risky. Most of the top running backs in that class had a better rookie season than Mixon. He was playing behind a poor offensive line, but that can’t be an excuse this year. Mixon needs to be great if the Bengals are going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Everyone believes he has the talent, now it’s time to prove it.
For more, listen to today’s Locked on Bengals podcast:
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.
For more, listen to the latest Locked on Bengals podcast below.
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