2022 Bengals: Glendale or Bust?

Rudy's Curve

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No one ever accused me of being a Mensa scholar, but I can't believe I was mad when they let Carl Lawson walk for Trey Hendrickson last offseason. It's not fair to Lawson as he tore his Achilles in camp last year and is still working his way back, but Hendrickson is a borderline top-five edge rusher in this league and put it all on display yesterday with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. The defense also picked up their first two picks, as it's amazing what happens when you can actually play with a lead against bad QBs. Granted it's been against Rush and Flacco, but they've gone 20 straight drives without allowing a TD and should continue to keep them in games when the offense can't get on track. Unfortunately, DJ Reader left with a knee injury and I can't see him playing Thursday - it wouldn't be wise to begin with and his absence won't be felt as much against a Miami team who hasn't been able to run the ball so far. He's the best nose tackle and might be the best run defender on the planet, so they really need him for Baltimore in two weeks. Burrow had a pretty seamless day and the OL finally held up - it certainly helps when there's no Watt or Parsons on the other side, but they also didn't have breakdowns in communication which plagued them the first two weeks. However, the running game remains stuck in mud - they're still not even able to run against light boxes.

It's a quick turnaround as they get Miami at home for TNF. Even though the Dolphins are 3-0 with two big wins, this is as good a time as you can ask for them as their defense was on the field for 90 plays in the heat and has to come back on a short week. I imagine it's also going to be pretty tough for them to come off this high on a short week on the road. It should be a fun crowd as the Bengals will be rocking the white tiger uniforms and induct the great Isaac Curtis and should-be HOFer Willie Anderson into the Ring of Honor. It's one they have to have to get back to .500 with road games in Baltimore and New Orleans on deck.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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The fans are off the ledge after two wins in five days to get them back to .500. Although Miami was undefeated with two big wins, it was a game the Bengals had to have with the Dolphins in a brutal scheduling spot. The passing game has looked like last year the last two weeks - it certainly helps when there's no Watt or Parsons on the other side - as defenses just can't account for everyone if they get enough protection (there were four defenders going towards Chase on the Higgins TD). However, the running game remains completely impotent and it's starting to get late early there especially with the way Mixon finished last year. They're just not going to be able to consistently drop back 40+ times against upper-echelon defenses. It would also help if they stopped running sweeps to the short side on 4th and 1, as that failed for the second time in five days.

The defense was certainly fortunate Miami left eight points on the board between a TD drop and missed FG + PAT, but they've been excellent going back to last year limiting damage and coming up with timely big plays as Logan Wilson continues his ascent to one of the best off-ball LBs in the league. They'll certainly get their stiffest test Sunday night in Baltimore, especially without stud NT DJ Reader who's out indefinitely after hurting his knee in the Jets game. Backup Josh Tupou is certainly capable, but Reader is a special player who was playing at an incredibly high level and they'll need productive snaps from cutdown waiver claim Jay Tufele.

It goes without saying this is a huge game, as these look to be the two teams vying for the division (that Steelers loss looks worse and worse every day) and the Bengals would be in a tough spot a game back with a head-to-head loss and 0-2 in the division. The Ravens have a ton of talent and have been dominant at times in every game, but they've had problems closing them out and may be without Bateman. The Bengals need to get at least one of the next two - they're in New Orleans next week - before hitting the soft part of the schedule (at Cleveland on MNF with the wind whipping off the lake is certainly no gimme, but it's sandwiched in between home games vs. Atlanta and Carolina) leading up to the bye.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Is it good when your coach trends on Twitter every game? Obviously I can't complain about the job Zac has done as the head coach (well, he is 18-35-1 after all) but he just continues to kill them calling plays. I can't comprehensively break down every playcaller in the league, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's the worst by a good distance. Even after being shut out yesterday, the Lions still have 140 points. The Seahawks have 127. It just cannot possibly be this hard. On a night where they finally ran it well, he calls a Philly Special which gets blown up and then a shovel pass on fourth down which never had a chance. If he was solely the OC, he would've been fired (even by the Bengals). Brian Callahan has the title and is going to be calling plays for somebody next year. If Zac has any sense of self-awareness, it'll be the Bengals.

I said at 0-2 they need to walk out of the Superdome next week at 3-3, and that's still within reach. However, they're now a game behind Baltimore with almost no chance of winning the tiebreaker as that Steelers loss (they lost to that fucking team?) will haunt them all year.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Not kicking the FG to tie it was pretty egregious and likely cost them the game.
Meh, even in a defensive battle I don't mind going for it. Going up four would've been huge and it's just generally a spot where you should be going for it. The problem was their goal line package consisted of a horrible Philly Special and a shovel pass to a special teamer.
 

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Meh, even in a defensive battle I don't mind going for it. Going up four would've been huge and it's just generally a spot where you should be going for it. The problem was their goal line package consisted of a horrible Philly Special and a shovel pass to a special teamer.
I’d be apeshit this morning about that sequence if I were you. 2nd and goal from like the 1-2 yard line and you’re calling a Philly special? When your QB is Joe Burrow, you have Joe Mixon at RB, and Chase at WR?
 

rslm

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Meh, even in a defensive battle I don't mind going for it. Going up four would've been huge and it's just generally a spot where you should be going for it. The problem was their goal line package consisted of a horrible Philly Special and a shovel pass to a special teamer.
I mean, I understand the thinking - even if we don't make it we've got them pinned at the 2, but I thought it was a really risky/bad decision at the time.
 

Rudy's Curve

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I’d be apeshit this morning about that sequence if I were you. 2nd and goal from like the 1-2 yard line and you’re calling a Philly special? When your QB is Joe Burrow, you have Joe Mixon at RB, and Chase at WR?
Obviously short yardage is different, but they were ripping off 5 a pop too. If your offense is going to suck on the whole, it at least needs to be good situationally. They're 31st in yards per play and do dumb shit like this. That's how you lose.
 

BigSoxFan

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Obviously short yardage is different, but they were ripping off 5 a pop too. If your offense is going to suck on the whole, it at least needs to be good situationally. They're 31st in yards per play and do dumb shit like this. That's how you lose.
How is Mixon in these situations? I don’t watch them every week but he seems to be able to get tough yards.
 

Rudy's Curve

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I mean, I understand the thinking - even if we don't make it we've got them pinned at the 2, but I thought it was a really risky/bad decision at the time.
If I'd known they were going to throw a shovel pass to a special teamer and it would look like that, obviously I would've kicked it too. Things are different on the goal line, but they were killing them with spread shotgun runs all night. There just has to be a better set of calls than what they did.
 

rslm

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Obviously short yardage is different, but they were ripping off 5 a pop too. If your offense is going to suck on the whole, it at least needs to be good situationally. They're 31st in yards per play and do dumb shit like this. That's how you lose.
On the whole I've been quite unimpressed with Zac Taylor. There were times last year when I literally thought he should be fired at halftime (Jacksonville game), but obviously getting hot and making it to the SB earns one a decent leash. This year he has a team that is uber-talented and again he seems quite un impressive.

Rudy - I'm not a Bengals fan, but I do live in Cincinnati. Most of my friends are Bengals fans so I pay attention. Curious to know your thoughts.
 

Rudy's Curve

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How is Mixon in these situations? I don’t watch them every week but he seems to be able to get tough yards.
They've been bad in short yardage going back to last year and he looked terrible before last night, but they ran it really well spreading them out in the gun. Mixon actually ran for a TD on 4th and goal in the same spot against the Ravens last year. Having Higgins certainly would've helped, but that's football and Zac just has zero feel. I don't know what they can do here. He's not getting fired but how much longer can this go on?
 

rslm

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They've been bad in short yardage going back to last year and he looked terrible before last night, but they ran it really well spreading them out in the gun. Mixon actually ran for a TD on 4th and goal in the same spot against the Ravens last year. Having Higgins certainly would've helped, but that's football and Zac just has zero feel. I don't know what they can do here. He's not getting fired but how much longer can this go on?
Mikey won't fire him. That we know for certain.
 

Rudy's Curve

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On the whole I've been quite unimpressed with Zac Taylor. There were times last year when I literally thought he should be fired at halftime (Jacksonville game), but obviously getting hot and making it to the SB earns one a decent leash. This year he has a team that is uber-talented and again he seems quite un impressive.

Rudy - I'm not a Bengals fan, but I do live in Cincinnati. Most of my friends are Bengals fans so I pay attention. Curious to know your thoughts.
That's honestly a pretty good summation of it. The problem is he was probably the most underqualified hire of the century (12 games as an interim NFL OC with mediocre results and one horrible season as a college OC), which is why we're still seeing these things in year four. I just don't understand given that though why he also calls plays. Being an NFL HC is hard. Coming into it with no experience is even harder. He's never shown any proficiency as a coordinator, so why add that to his responsibilities? I've been told too Burrow just audibled out of Zac's calls in a bunch of games last year where he had big second halves.

At the end of the day, he's 18-35-1. Now he had absolutely no chance his first year - he came in really late since the Rams were in the SB, which is especially tough with the Bengals where the coaches have a ton of personnel input and then Green went down in the first practice of camp. However, he still has a losing regular season record with Burrow and runs an offense with Burrow/Chase/Higgins/Boyd/Mixon and a revamped OL that's almost dead fucking last in yards per play. Last year bought him a ton of goodwill (and literally, since they extended him right after), but I just don't understand how you can watch this and not think something has to change. As you said above though, there's no way Mike is firing him now or even at the end of the year. There needs to be a ton of pressure though to give up his playcalling.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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This certainly isn't the best defense in the league, but goddamn if they're not gutty as hell. On a day where they let up 228 rushing yards and could not get off the field for the life of them on third and long despite the Saints missing their three top receivers, they held strong in the red zone holding the Saints to four field goals. They made the two biggest stops of the day when they needed to get the offense the ball back for the go-ahead TD and then seal the game, and they still have not allowed a second half TD all year. Unfortunately, star LB Logan Wilson hurt the same shoulder where he had offseason surgery. We'll know more later today, but I'd sign up for missing the next three weeks and coming back after the bye.

After another sluggish start (what's new?), this was the offense everyone expected all year. The OL has been mostly excellent in protection the last four games and on two of the plays where they weren't Sunday, Burrow turned a sure sack into a completion and another one into a 19-yard rushing TD. The rest of the time, he was getting the ball out and letting the receivers do their thing. Higgins is still hampered by an ankle injury and had a bad drop, but they finally got Boyd back in the gameplan against the soft zones they've been seeing and Chase was vintage Chase in his return to his hometown and the Superdome.

They accomplished the goal at 0-2 of getting out of New Orleans at 3-3. Now they need to really make hay the next five games against the softest part of the schedule (ATL, at CLE, CAR, at PIT, at TEN) before a brutal finishing stretch. At Cleveland on MNF is certainly no gimme (whose running game would you rather have on a presumably windy night by the lake?), but they can't stop a nosebleed and it's just a game good teams need to win. They're back in a tie for first with Baltimore's meltdown yesterday, although it'll be tough to make up the tiebreaker with a head-to-head loss already and another division loss to the Steelers.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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In addition to Wilson being week-to-week, they're also going to be without backup NT Josh Tupou (an above-average run defender) for a little while and DJ Reader is probably still out the next three games through the bye. Yeah, they're going to have some problems stopping the run the next few weeks. Oh well, that's football. The defense was clearly the better unit the first five weeks and now the offense is going to have to pick them up for this stretch.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Yeah, that's what this offense is capable of looking like. The Falcons obviously aren't the stiffest of defenses (plus they lost AJ Terrell early), but the Bengals went through them like they were standing still in the first half before taking the foot off the gas. The OL continued to be excellent in protection as they're really starting to jell. It certainly didn't help they played the Pittsburgh and Dallas fronts the first two weeks, but they were also breaking in four new starters together which included a rookie who didn't take many first-team reps, a guy who missed OTAs (Cappa) and a guy who missed a chunk of camp (Collins). They're giving Burrow plenty of time to find his weapons and after a horrific opener, he's got a 13/1 TD/INT ratio in the last six games while adding three rushing scores.

With the offense humming in the first half, that mostly took Atlanta's running game away which would've been their path to victory - somehow, the Falcons still ran the ball 29 times to only 13 passes despite trailing by multiple scores basically the entire game. Cutdown waiver claim DT Jay Tufele continues to flash, and they'll need him with DJ Reader and Josh Tupou most likely out through the bye in two weeks and Cleveland's run game on deck. The one gaffe came at the end of the half when Eli Apple somehow let the ball go over his head from 75 yards out with 40 seconds left. Despite all his beefs and the internet's opinion of him, he's been a quality CB2 since the Bengals plucked him from the scrap heap last year. However, they invested a second-round pick this year in Cam Taylor-Britt who outsnapped Apple convincingly in his NFL debut. I'd certainly expect a rotation moving forward and they're going to need both playing at a high level when they square off with KC and Buffalo later.

Next up is MNF in Cleveland. The Bengals really need this one to keep pace (they can pretty much kiss the tiebreaker with the Ravens goodbye if they lose another division game) but despite the Browns' struggles, it's not going to be easy. Their running game has killed the Bengals for four years, early forecasts call for some showers and the Bengals will likely be without their two best run stuffers in Reader and Tupou. It's going to be on the offense to carry them through the bye and if the last two weeks are an indication, they're up for the challenge.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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There's the major personnel loss they were so fortunate to avoid last year, as Chase is out 4-6 weeks with a hip. Hindsight 20-10 etc., but if he originally hurt it against the Saints two weeks ago why try to rush him back last week in a very winnable game at home against the Falcons? Their longtime trainer retired in the offseason and I'm wondering if a first-year guy has the same pull with the players and coach. Obviously, he could've reaggravated it at any point even if he took last week off but it's generally not a great idea to play games with the second most important player on the team.

Thankfully, this comes in a softer part of the schedule (he'll miss CLE/CAR/PIT/TEN at minimum) so hopefully he's back for KC in Week 13. They're certainly more equipped to deal with this now having an actual NFL OL (who's been on a heater the last month) and this is the luxury of having two #1s. It's time for Higgins to be the guy he (presumably) wants to be paid like after the season. The problem is they didn't accumulate enough depth at a position for a team so reliant on it. The next man up is Mike Thomas, who has less than half a yard per snap in seven seasons. They've been much more active under Zac going out and getting reinforcements, so I could definitely see them making a move.
 
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There's the major personnel loss they were so fortunate to avoid last year, as Chase is out 4-6 weeks with a hip. Hindsight 20-10 etc., but if he originally hurt it against the Saints two weeks ago why try to rush him back last week in a very winnable game at home against the Falcons? Their longtime trainer retired in the offseason and I'm wondering if a first-year guy has the same pull with the players and coach. Obviously, he could've reaggravated it at any point even if he took last week off but it's generally not a great idea to play games with the second most important player on the team.

Thankfully, this comes in a softer part of the schedule (he'll miss CLE/CAR/PIT/TEN at minimum) so hopefully he's back for KC in Week 13. They're certainly more equipped to deal with this now having an actual NFL OL (who's been on a heater the last month) and this is the luxury of having two #1s. It's time for Higgins to be the guy he (presumably) wants to be paid like after the season. The problem is they didn't accumulate enough depth at a position for a team so reliant on it. The next man up is Mike Thomas, who has less than half a yard per snap in seven seasons. They've been much more active under Zac going out and getting reinforcements, so I could definitely see them making a move.
They are welcome to overpay for Agholor or Bourne. This injury sucks though. Chase is really fun to watch with Burrow and I think Higgins is nowhere close.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Well, that was just an all-around shitburger at the worst possible time. Stefanski is officially Zac's daddy as he's now 5-0 against him with the last two (aside from the meaningless Week 18 last year) being complete blowouts. They completely abandoned the run against a defense who couldn't stop it at all this year and the passing game was basically nonfunctional without Chase. In addition, they lost star CB Chidobe Awuzie for the year which is one they really couldn't afford. They're essentially 1.5 back in the division (there's almost zero chance they'll win a tiebreaker with Baltimore), so just getting to the playoffs is the goal now. It's starting to look like it's just not their year.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Super Bowl hangover. My gosh was last night tough to watch.
They talked all week too about how important it was not to fall to 0-3 in the division. It was a primetime division game against a team who owned them the last four years and this was the result. They've had a bunch of bad starts (PIT, DAL, BAL, NO) but were never thoroughly outclassed for 60 minutes like this. There was always the hope they could crash the party like last year. Between how they've looked and the injuries, that's pretty much gone now.
 

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That was a dismal performance. I don’t understand how they could have looked so fucking bad against Cleveland, even without Chase. You shouldn’t need a super freak to be a decent offense. Bad coaching. Not on burrow…but bad coaching. Sorry Rudy
 

Rudy's Curve

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Joe Mixon was one of the worst players in football through the first eight weeks. He averaged 3.35 YPC, didn't break any tackles and his pass protection was so bad to the point OC Brian Callahan called it out publicly. That all changed yesterday as he went off for 211 total yards and five TDs. The lanes were certainly there, but he ran decisively and broke a bunch of tackles (74 rushing yards over expected) against a Panthers defense that came into the game leading the league in running EPA. It was quite the sight for sore eyes and something they desperately needed without Chase. If this is more the Mixon from yesterday than the first eight weeks, they can score on anyone when Chase comes back. The Panthers certainly aren't a good offense, but the defense put up an absolutely dominant effort in the first half as they only allowed one first down (which was by penalty) before Mayfield came in the second half and put up a bunch of garbage time points. If there were any negatives, rookie CB Cam Taylor-Britt is going through growing pains as he's still only played three games while McPherson missed another routine kick.

The bye seems to come at a good time as it allows Chase another week to heal (I doubt you'll see him back for Pittsburgh though) and the defensive staff some time to adjust without Awuzie. Ace run defender DJ Reader should be back though for another must-win in Pittsburgh in two weeks, as it's a team they have to beat and they need to start stacking AFC wins for tiebreakers. It's currently scheduled for SNF, but I'd imagine it'll be flexed out by the deadline tomorrow.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Well, that wasn't a good one for the Burrow can't play without Chase crowd. Having Chase sure as hell helps (and it looks like he may be back next week), but Burrow's elite anticipation and accuracy will play with anyone. It all added up to 9+ YPA and four TDs (to Samaje Perine and Trenton Irwin) on the road in frigid temps against a damn good defense at full strength. The best way to make up for the loss of Awuzie is to just score 30 a game, and they're two for two there so far. The defense shook off a bad first half of communication issues and barely allowed anything in the second half by dropping more guys into coverage before a garbage time TD. It's also good to see nothing has changed with the culture in Pittsburgh (but Burfict!).

That win gets them into the 7-seed at the moment as they own the tiebreaker over the Jets. Now comes the meat grinder finish (at TEN, KC, CLE, at TB, at NE, BUF, BAL) that will test how legitimate they are. They're probably going to struggle against the bigtime passing games, but if Chase comes back healthy they can score with anyone.
 
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Well, that wasn't a good one for the Burrow can't play without Chase crowd. Having Chase sure as hell helps (and it looks like he may be back next week), but Burrow's elite anticipation and accuracy will play with anyone. It all added up to 9+ YPA and four TDs (to Samaje Perine and Trenton Irwin) on the road in frigid temps against a damn good defense at full strength. The best way to make up for the loss of Awuzie is to just score 30 a game, and they're two for two there so far. The defense shook off a bad first half of communication issues and barely allowed anything in the second half by dropping more guys into coverage before a garbage time TD. It's also good to see nothing has changed with the culture in Pittsburgh (but Burfict!).

That win gets them into the 7-seed at the moment as they own the tiebreaker over the Jets. Now comes the meat grinder finish (at TEN, KC, CLE, at TB, at NE, BUF, BAL) that will test how legitimate they are. They're probably going to struggle against the bigtime passing games, but if Chase comes back healthy they can score with anyone.
That is a brutal schedule (and will make for a lot of entertaining games). Damn. If they can get to 10-11 wins, they’ll certainly have shown they can do something in the playoffs. Burrow is awesome. Competitive, talented, smart. Gives them a chance against anyone.
 

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That is a brutal schedule (and will make for a lot of entertaining games). Damn. If they can get to 10-11 wins, they’ll certainly have shown they can do something in the playoffs. Burrow is awesome. Competitive, talented, smart. Gives them a chance against anyone.
This is the offense that was envisioned when they made the OL upgrades (and fourth-round rookie Cordell Volson has been perfectly fine at LG). They didn't even have a running game yesterday either (Mixon was ineffective and then concussed) but if Burrow gets any decent amount of time, you're probably going to pay.

Next week should be a hell of a battle. The Titans are on extra rest and probably have a little revenge on their minds from last year, plus they're playing really well and Vrabel is pretty good at this. This was ideally the game they wanted to have Chase back for, so hopefully he'll keep healing quickly.
 

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No Chase, no Mixon, no problem. That's because the Bengals have #9, an above-average OL and the best nose tackle on the planet in DJ Reader who might be the single best run defender in the NFL. Henry had a huge gain on a screen but was completely stonewalled on the ground because there was simply nowhere to go. Between the playoff game and yesterday, he had 100 yards on 37 carries and Reader is the biggest reason why. I can't say I've watched every slot corner, but there can't be many more willing tacklers than all 5'9 and 185 pounds of Mike Hilton, who met Henry head-on multiple times. Rookie second-round CB Cam Taylor-Britt had no problem getting his nose in there either and chased Henry down on the screen to force a fumble that was ultimately recovered by the Titans in the end zone.

Ten months after taking nine sacks in that building, Burrow only took one as the OL neutralized Simmons as much as possible and opened up lanes on the ground that usually aren't there against the Titans. Meanwhile, Higgins continued his ascent into #1 territory with another big game including the go-ahead TD and Trenton Irwin made a great back shoulder catch on third and long that kept the game-winning drive alive.

They've now won seven of nine after the 0-2 start while playing seven of the last 10 on the road. The closing schedule is definitely brutal, but they're the only AFC contender with four home games left and the other teams have to play them. Chase should be back this week for the Chiefs after logging three limited sessions last week and they're certainly going to need him as the defense faces by far its stiffest test. They can keep up with anyone though if he's healthy and Chris Jones is not going to control this game like he did last year against backup-caliber OL.
 
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Man, what a win. It was fun to actually run a play with a lead this time (something they didn't do in either Chiefs game last year), but of course it came down to the wire. Germaine Pratt saved the game with his forced fumble on Kelce when the Chiefs were up four in the fourth and then the offense did the rest as Burrow, Chase and Higgins all came up with huge plays down the stretch. It certainly helped Reid made a terrible decision to play for the tie with a banged-up kicker attempting a 55-yarder in the cold and Mahomes never saw the ball again. That should all but lock up a playoff spot with every other WC contender losing and despite the Ravens pulling it out yesterday, the balance of power for the division has shifted to the Bengals with Jackson's injury (and they're just playing much better right now).

The Browns come into town this week and even though they aren't good, they've beaten up the Bengals bad the last 4+ years including earlier this year. With Watson struggling mightily yesterday, I expect the Bengals to exorcise their demons and win this convincingly. The 1-seed is probably too much to ask given their schedule vs. the Chiefs' down the stretch, but it's entirely possible Week 17 vs. the Bills in Cincinnati on MNF could be for the 2.
 

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Sometimes, it's that simple: the Bengals have DJ Reader, and the other teams don't. He was the biggest force behind limiting Chubb to 2.4 a carry (two weeks after they held Henry to 2.2), as he took on probably the best guard tandem in the league in Bitonio and Teller and ate them for lunch while also consistently pushing the pocket and getting his hands on a ball too. Logan Wilson cleaned it up behind him with 17 tackles and rookie CB Cam Taylor-Britt continues to ascend, as he held Cooper to two catches. Unfortunately, Hendrickson broke his wrist which is really going to test their edge depth.

Burrow's numbers certainly weren't pretty, but sometimes you have to make chicken salad out of chicken shit which is what happened when Higgins and Boyd played a combined three snaps - Higgins aggravated his hamstring in warmups and Boyd hurt his finger on the second play. He had a great tight window throw to Chase for a TD and then they caught the safeties coming up in the run game with a perfectly planned flea flicker for a long TD to Trenton Irwin. After abandoning the run during the loss to Cleveland a few weeks ago, they stuck to it yesterday as Mixon went 14-96 in his return and Perine added a great second-effort TD. Hopefully Higgins and Boyd are back next week, and we should get a decent idea today during Zac's presser.

They've now won five in a row, seven of eight and nine of 11 and all but locked up a playoff spot. Unfortunately, they didn't get any help in the division yesterday as the Ravens also won. I think the Bengals will beat them if they can get to a Week 18 winner-take-all in Cincy, but they have to hold serve the next three weeks since the Ravens will have the tiebreaker regardless and the Bengals play a much tougher schedule. Up next is a trip to Tampa - the Bengals are certainly the better team, but it has a trappy feel going to warm weather in December and after the Bucs got smoked yesterday. They're playing at a very high level right now, so I expect them to be up for it.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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Higgins and his recovery are key in my opinion. Hamstrings are tough to recover from without proper rest. When he’s in that lineup, it makes the Bengals very tough.
Yep - hopefully an essential day off yesterday will do him good this week. The first few drives were a slog as the Browns were doubling Chase and forcing Trenton Irwin and Trent Taylor to beat them, but they made some adjustments to get Chase free and got the running game going. They'll need Higgins and Boyd against the upper-echelon defenses though, and they'll certainly be tested the last month (TB, NE, BUF, BAL).
 

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Boyd out a week or two, per Pelissero (the best national source for Bengals news). Could be worse I suppose, but these are a couple tough matchups to miss him.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Yesterday certainly had the trappy feel I mentioned after last week. The game started eerily similarly to MNF against the Browns where a tipped INT ruined a promising opening drive and then the offense was nonfunctional after that. Combine that with the defense not being able to get off the field and you have a 17-3 halftime deficit where it just wasn't their day, and Brady had never blown even a 14-point lead at home, much less 17. They were also down Trey Hendrickson and Mike Hilton and lost Sam Hubbard and Cam Taylor-Britt during the game. Fortunately, this team is different, and it helped the Bucs obliged with four turnovers and a botched fake punt in the second half as the Bengals rattled off 34 unanswered. With the Ravens loss, the Bengals now lead the division and need one win in the next two (or a Ravens loss, but I'm not counting on that at home vs. ATL/PIT) to set up a Week 18 division title game in Cincy.

It's on to Foxboro Saturday. Hilton and Taylor-Britt both said they're good to go, but I doubt you'll see Hendrickson and now Hubbard is out 2-4 weeks (per Pelissero). The Bengals are the better team on paper, but Judon/Uche vs. La'el Collins (who was repeatedly whipped by Joe Tryon yesterday) and no Hubbard (an excellent run defender) worry me greatly.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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I don't know what exactly I should take out of yesterday, so I'll just mention for the umpteenth time DJ Reader is the best nose tackle and run defender on planet Earth. In the last five weeks, they held Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb and Rhamondre Stevenson to 102 yards on 44 carries (that's 2.3 per) with no TDs and Reader is by far the biggest reason. Of course, it was Reader who started the play of the game yesterday by blowing it up in the backfield and allowing Vonn Bell to come in for the strip. The Bengals allow 3.36 YPC when he's been on the field vs. 4.28 off and they've played much better run games when he's been healthy, as he missed six games with a torn MCL. It's impossible to overstate how valuable he is.

It's incredible the game even got to that point, but that's what two interceptions on uncharacteristic miscommunications and a bad fumble will do as well as Cam Taylor-Britt forgetting to actually look for the ball on the Bourne TD. It's a little disturbing two of their last four halves have been terrible but winning on the road against decent teams is hard. McPherson also had an awful day, although the normally accurate Folk did as well so I'm willing to chalk it up to the conditions. They may have lost La'el Collins for a bit (although he did talk in the locker room after), but Hakeem Adeniji might honestly be an upgrade - certainly in protection.

They've now won seven in a row, nine of 10 and 11 of 13 while playing nine of the last 14 on the road. It's wishful thinking (especially since it requires a Chiefs loss to DEN/LV), but hopefully the next time they get on a plane is for Phoenix. After a short week between two road games, they're back home for a MNF showdown with the Bills where the winner is in the driver's seat for a top-two seed. The win yesterday guarantees at least a division title game Week 18, and they can clinch Monday if the Ravens lose to the Steelers Sunday - if not, it becomes essentially meaningless for the division but there's obviously a ton of importance for seeding. The line opened Bills -2 and has already been bet down to PK - Bills -1 probably seems fair and where I expect it to close. Either way, it's going to be one hell of an atmosphere along the banks of the Ohio next Monday night.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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Further tests just revealed La'el Collins tore his ACL and MCL yesterday. They're certainly going to miss his power in the run game and the continuity on the OL (they haven't missed a single start), but Hakeem Adeniji has been really good in his chances after struggling his first two years at LT and RG and is probably a better pass protector at this point. Ideally, he 'll take the job and run with it to be the starter next year.
 

Rudy's Curve

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After all the events of the last two weeks, the Bengals have repeated as AFC North champs and go into the playoffs as the 3 seed after a vanilla victory yesterday where the Ravens rested starters. Unfortunately, they likely lost RG Alex Cappa for the year - he's their best lineman and was playing at a very high level. Replacement Max Scharping was an intriguing cutdown waiver claim with 33 starts over three years in Houston and will be asked to pick up the slack. He won't be Cappa, but if they almost won the SB last year with horrific play at that spot they can do it with him.

It's on to a rematch with the Ravens. Burrow certainly has to be better as he missed a bunch of throws yesterday, but they also didn't give away much in the gameplan with the anticipation of a rematch. Man, I hate this fucking team from their crime-covering owner to the whiniest coach in the sport and an organization that walks around like they're above everyone else. Time to pack up the Mayflowers Sunday night.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Man, that certainly wasn't pretty but you never apologize for wins in January. They also look to have lost LT Jonah Williams, which makes three OL starters lost the last three games after having the same five the first 15. Some people wanted them to sign Andrew Whitworth after they lost RT La'el Collins, but that never made sense positionally and with the backups they had there. I think you have to give it serious consideration now (hey, Eric Weddle came off the couch in January last year and got a ring), as I just don't think you can trust Jackson Carman with your season on the line. He's never been able to play LT here like he did in college, but he's been awful wherever he's played and a healthy scratch basically all year.

It's on to Orchard Park Sunday as we'll finally see the much-anticipated matchup for 60 minutes. The Bengals are a bit outclassed talent-wise and it's going to be tough sledding up there with the OL injuries, but Allen can certainly let them back in the game as well - they just have to catch it when he tries.

On another note, the Ravens just completed a decade with fewer playoff wins than the Jaguars and have made a Final Four less recently than Wichita State. Can we stop talking about them as a model organization please?
 

BaseballJones

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Re: Baltimore... They always seem to be good but....that's just a mirage.

Since their SB victory in the 2012 season....

2013: 8-8
2014: 10-6, lost first game in the playoffs (divisional)
2015: 5-11
2016: 8-8
2017: 9-7
2018: 10-6, lost first game in the playoffs (wild card)
2019: 14-2, lost first game in the playoffs (divisional)
2020: 11-5, lost first game in the playoffs (divisional)
2021: 8-9
2022: 10-7, lost first game in the playoffs (wild card)

So in the last 10 years, they've had 8 or fewer wins 4 times. They've missed the playoffs 5 times. They've been to the playoffs 5 times but haven't won a single playoff game.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Re: Baltimore... They always seem to be good but....that's just a mirage.

Since their SB victory in the 2012 season....

2013: 8-8
2014: 10-6, lost first game in the playoffs (divisional)
2015: 5-11
2016: 8-8
2017: 9-7
2018: 10-6, lost first game in the playoffs (wild card)
2019: 14-2, lost first game in the playoffs (divisional)
2020: 11-5, lost first game in the playoffs (divisional)
2021: 8-9
2022: 10-7, lost first game in the playoffs (wild card)

So in the last 10 years, they've had 8 or fewer wins 4 times. They've missed the playoffs 5 times. They've been to the playoffs 5 times but haven't won a single playoff game.
They won their first game in 2014 and 2020.
 

tims4wins

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Re: Baltimore... They always seem to be good but....that's just a mirage.

Since their SB victory in the 2012 season....

2013: 8-8
2014: 10-6, lost first game in the playoffs (divisional)
2015: 5-11
2016: 8-8
2017: 9-7
2018: 10-6, lost first game in the playoffs (wild card)
2019: 14-2, lost first game in the playoffs (divisional)
2020: 11-5, lost first game in the playoffs (divisional)
2021: 8-9
2022: 10-7, lost first game in the playoffs (wild card)

So in the last 10 years, they've had 8 or fewer wins 4 times. They've missed the playoffs 5 times. They've been to the playoffs 5 times but haven't won a single playoff game.
They won a game in 2014.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Oh whoops I forgot about those! Still...2-5 then over the last 10 years in the playoffs.
The second win was also against a team who gave up 439 points and it was attended by 14,029. That's the only playoff game they've won in the last eight years. I think the '14 Divisional game might have killed Harbaugh - thank you Pats.
 

BaseballJones

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Brady has more Super Bowl championships than Baltimore has playoff wins since 2012 (4 to 2). LOL.
 

Rudy's Curve

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You guys really missed Collins it seemed
I'll have to watch some film review since I was in, uhh, less than a sharp state last night. They certainly miss his power in the run game, but Adeniji is probably better in protection - Collins was on his ass a lot and really struggled with the bendy speed guys. The problem is that it's compounded by losing Cappa, taking out their best lineman and putting in an entirely new right side in January which is less than ideal. They really need Williams to be able to go - he dislocated his knee again, but he played through it the first time.
 
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DeadlySplitter

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That performance today was so good, with Mahomes' high ankle sprain I'd be tempted to favor Cincy on the betting line next Sunday. (I bet KC will be a 1-2 point favorite)
 

Rudy's Curve

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That performance today was so good, with Mahomes' high ankle sprain I'd be tempted to favor Cincy on the betting line next Sunday. (I bet KC will be a 1-2 point favorite)
Considering the opponent/venue/stakes, that was the best performance in franchise history. They just took the best team in the league to the cleaners in their house and it was never in doubt. Zac just knows how to get these guys up for big games and they take after #9. It's incredible Lou Anarumo was never a fulltime DC until 2019 because he's a goddamn wizard. I always thought if they won today, they would win the Super Bowl. The path is certainly still tough from here on out, but if they could do this today it's hard to see how anyone can beat them. You're right on the mark as KC is -1 - I was hoping for a little more to bet the Bengals but the oddsmakers know what's up by now. Even if Mahomes is healthy, they just passed a tougher test on the road in the elements and they're not scared of Arrowhead. I expect them to be in Glendale.
 

Ferm Sheller

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Considering the opponent/venue/stakes, that was the best performance in franchise history. They just took the best team in the league to the cleaners in their house and it was never in doubt. Zac just knows how to get these guys up for big games and they take after #9. It's incredible Lou Anarumo was never a fulltime DC until 2019 because he's a goddamn wizard. I always thought if they won today, they would win the Super Bowl. The path is certainly still tough from here on out, but if they could do this today it's hard to see how anyone can beat them. You're right on the mark as KC is -1 - I was hoping for a little more to bet the Bengals but the oddsmakers know what's up by now. Even if Mahomes is healthy, they just passed a tougher test on the road in the elements and they're not scared of Arrowhead. I expect them to be in Glendale.
I picked the Bengals to win the SB before the playoffs started, and they're playing very well, but I disagree that Buffalo is the "best team in the league". Not the last few weeks, at least. I think that KC and Philly are both better than Buffalo, and that Cincy will have their hands full with each (but yes, I still think that they'll win the SB).