At mid-week, I am only now able to say that I am at peace with the debacle that was last Sunday: Our beloved and infuriating Bengals lost an infinitely winnable game to a clearly inferior opponent at home. I may finally be able to acknowledge it, but it still hurts to write it.
Next comes Buffalo, with their new-look/old-look white helmets and captained by old pal Ryan Fitzpatrick. I personally despised him as he bumbled his way through 2008 in place of the injured Carson Palmer, but boy, I’d love to have him now. I wanted him run out of town on a rail that 4-11-1 year and now he’s proven himself to be a capable, starting NFL quarterback. Go figure.
Much to my shame (and the Bengals’) he wasn’t kept around long enough for his talent to blossom under a striped helmet. Of course, who would have thought that our squeaky-clean, franchise golden boy would ditch us in the prime of his career? But I digress.
The Bills look legit, with a diverse, high-powered offense and an opportunistic defense. They’ve scored 14 touchdowns through 3 games. The Bengals have 5. The Bills also have a penchant for coming from behind. Not good considering our Bengals can’t seem to hold a lead.
Nonetheless, there could be an opportunity here. Buffalo is certainly the darling of the NFL, and I’m sure their practices this week are being peppered with national media interviews and taped spots for NFL Network, ESPN, and CBS. I’m sure that’s more than a little distracting for a team that’s been an afterthought to the media for most of the last decade. As for our boys, I’m sure they’re angry and motivated to do better this week, and they’ll once again have the luxury of being the underdog. The distractions from Cedric Benson and Jerome Simpson should be relatively old news, and the defense should be the best the Bills have seen to date. Buffalo is ready to come back down to earth, and the Bengals are desperate and hungry for a win. Plus, the Bills have an 11-game win streak against Cincinnati. The Bengals are due.
All that aside, as with the first 3 weeks I think it all comes down to the new-look offense, and if they can score 24 points. If they can, we’ll win. If they can’t….we’ll see.
Speaking of Benson, the Bengals apparently felt queasy enough about his status to work out two former big-name backs on Tuesday with both Clinton Portis and one-time Bengal Larry Johnson trying out. Both left without a contract, but the season is still young. I could see them bringing one in soon. Frankly, I’m not too enthralled with either option. Portis has been dogged by injuries in recent years and they are both on the wrong side of 30. Nonetheless, if healthy either one could replace Ced as the bellcow back. Personally, I’d go with LJ. If you ask me, he outperformed Benson in 2009, and he’s got younger legs.
Then there’s the question: Is the team doing this strictly because of Benson’s possible suspension, or is there more to it? Like maybe they feel he’s not doing enough?
Of course, all this seems to suggest the team has no confidence in Cedric Peerman, a point that CincyJungle explored this week. If Bernard Scott isn’t going to get any freakin’ touches, why not give another Cedric some?
At any rate, they need better production from the running game–even with 8 man fronts–to take pressure off of QB Andy Dalton.
In related news, the Bengals missed out on Steve Slaton, who was picked up by the 0-3 Dolphins. I think he still has some playmaking ability in him.
Considering Jerome Simpson’s questionable status, and Jordan Shipley’s season-ending knee injury, it seems to me some help is likewise needed at receiver. The team hosted Brett Swain (who?) on Tuesday along with the two runningbacks, and he also left without a contract. The team lost a shot at Donnie Avery this week (signed with the Titans), but there are other capable options still available if the Bengals so choose. Experienced guys like Justin Gage, Johnnie Lee Higgins, and (gulp) T.J. Houshmandzadeh are out there. Hey, T.O.’s available too! (Just kidding).
Even if the team does bring in more help, it seems to me that they need more out of Brandon Tate. Tate hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in the return game, and to date hasn’t had much of an opportunity in the passing game. He has good size (6-1, 195) and started 10 games for the Patriots last year at WR. Assuming Simpson gets canned/suspended/thrown in jail, Tate would be the fastest and most obvious replacement. The only question is: Can he do it?
Getting Jermaine Gresham more involved would be nice, too.
Lastly, while the defense has been stout for most of the season, their occassional brain farts are killing this team. The Denver loss can be pinned on two specific screw ups in the defensive backfield. Sunday’s debacle is due to their inability to keep track of Vernon Davis, one of the better tight ends in the game. We need to see more from Rey Maualuga, Michael Johnson, and Carlos Dunlap in the front seven, and our safeties in the back end. Hopefully the “D” will get a boost from Dontay Moch, who’s expected back soon from injury.