September 30, 2014

At the Quarter Pole

After being universally declared as the worst team in football by every media outlet on Earth just a month ago, the most recent iterations of those same Power Rankings put the Bengals at either #21 or #22. Not that this surprises either you or me. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that have moved the Bengals from “Unmitigated Disaster” to “Almost Average”.

Andy Dalton is pretty good. If you want to know the value of a good QB, ask a Colts fan. (Have a few tissues on hand when you do.)

Back in August, had you asked a fan of any other team about the Bengals, they knew one thing. “Man, they are so bad that Carson Plamer quit.” That’s all they knew. Well, 4 weeks later we know that 1) losing CP was not such a big loss, and 2) Andy can play. It has not all been perfect, but there is a lot to like.

A.J. Green is scary good. He is Chad Johnson and Chris Henry in one guy. He is the deep threat that will keep defensive coordinators awake at night. He and Mike Wallace in Pittsburgh could change the style of the AFC North a bit.

The Bengals will not be in the “Andrew Luck sweepstakes” in April. There are plenty of bad teams in the NFL right now. The Bengals may already have as many wins as the team who picks first (I’m looking at you, Miami) gets all year.

The defense is pretty good. But don’t be fooled by the current #1 ranking. Just as the Bills’ offense was overrated because they had only faced bad defenses, so the numbers for Bengals’ defense looks artificially good because they have faced some mediocre offenses. Honestly, the Browns, Broncos and 49ers are not exactly high-octane offenses. Facing quality teams later will show how good their true strengths and weaknesses.

My 4-12 prediction was overly pessimistic. And being wrong never felt so good. My heart wanted to say 6-10, but I expected Andy Dalton to struggle more than he has. 7-9 is completely plausible at this point, and better is certainly possible with the right growth.

Looking forward:

Before we part, let’s speculate a little about the 2nd quarter of the season, which looks a whole lot different than it did a month ago. The next 5 weeks shake out like so:

  • Oct.9 – @ Jacksonville (1-3)
  • Oct. 16 – Indianapolis (0-4)
  • Oct. 23 – (bye)
  • Oct. 30 – @ Seattle (1-3)
  • Nov. 6 – @ Tennessee (3-1)

Indianapolis was viewed as an automatic “L” just 6 weeks ago. And if you are like me, you figured Seattle was a loss because the Bengals never play well out there. Those are now two completely winnable games.

When we convene again in a month, at the midpoint of the season, where do you see the Bengals standing? Could you see this happening in the AFC North?

  • Baltimore (6-2)
  • Cincinnati (5-3)
  • Pittsburgh (4-5) [their bye week is Nov. 20]
  • Cleveland (3-5)

Comments

  1. Eric says:

    I can definitely see us at 5-3 at the turn, and kicking ourselves that we aren’t 6-2 if we could have just pulled out the Denver or San Fran games. Dalton will only get better.

    One thing I will disagree with you on is the A.J. Green comparison. Perhaps he’s as gifted as Henry and Ocho in one guy, but he’s got 1/10th the baggage ONE of them brought to this team.