Rapid fire thoughts about last week, this week, and the season ahead. Let’s roll…
1. I can’t wait to see Cincinnati play Pittsburgh again with Carlos Dunlap on the field. I think Dunlap could give the Steelers fits if he’s healthy. I was not impressed by their tackle play at all.
2. It’s sad to see Leon Hall end up on IR. Hall has been a very consistent performer for the Bengals defense since he arrived in Cincinnati. Fortunately, the Bengals do have some depth behind him if Adam (Arcade Game) Jones returns. Kelly Jennings is also a former first-rounder and Brandon Ghee was drafted in the third, so the position should have some high ceilings.
3. This Sunday’s game in Baltimore is huge. Cincinnati’s season could devolve into a mini-tailspin if the Bengals lose. They’d be 6-4 and will probably need at least 10 wins to make the playoffs in the fairly competitive AFC. The win against Tennessee could prove huge in that regard. It’s also looking like the season finale against Baltimore could be a potential elimination game if the season stays on the current course.
4. The Bengals game against Houston got a little easier with the news that Matt Schaub is out for the season. Cincinnati is now looking at a home game with Matt Leinart starting instead of a prolific, proven passer. Upgrade.
5. I like Andrew Hawkins a lot, along with Jay Gruden’s offensive creativity. Gruden seems to have a knack for getting his players involved and Hawkins seems to have some Welker-ish abilities in the slot. He could be a valuable weapon going forward.
6. I thought for sure A.J. Green’s season was over after his touchdown catch, so the Steelers game is a huge win in that regard. With Jerome Simpson’s future status still somewhat uncertain, the Bengals simply could not make the playoffs without Green. I was elated to see he didn’t pop an ACL, because it sure looked bad from where I was sitting.
7. I still like Cincy’s running back rotation – even if Cedric Benson doesn’t. Many teams have proven that it helps to have two backs in the NFL, and I think Benson will be better off down the stretch with Bernard Scott getting a few more carries. For what it’s worth, Cedric Peerman is a special teams stalwart. I wonder what he could do with a carry or two.
8. Some Steelers fans who could string a few sentences together came away from the game impressed with Dalton. Even though the kid only completed about 50-percent of his passes and had a pair of interceptions, he seems to have the moxie to hang around with the AFC North heavyweights. I think he’ll beat both Pittsburgh and Baltimore someday – hopefully it’s this season.
9. I hope Pac Man’s hamstring holds up for the rest of the season. If he can stay healthy, Cincinnati shouldn’t lose too much with Hall’s absence. If he can’t get back on the field, the Bengals defense will have a bit of a bulls-eye on one side of the field.
10. There’s a lot to like about this team, both now and in the future. It’s obvious there’s a legitimate core of players who can compete with the NFL’s big boys. And the Bengals get to add to that considerably in the next few drafts. With the Raiders loot, and some picks for Ochocinco and Johnathan Joseph’s departure, Cincinnati will have some firepower to make some moves. I’d prefer they stay put early on, hit some singles, and then make some moves in the middle rounds. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
There’s a lot of the season left, starting with an enormous game on Sunday. Get jacked up.