The Blog Of Football Guesses is a weekly homage to a former iHeartMedia Director of Digital who once informed me, in all seriousness, that "football picks drive web traffic, especially if you toss in a picture of a cheerleader." If you take some random radio guy's football guesses seriously, you need help.
The Bengals are 1-3, with their only win coming against a comically bad Browns team. Their quarterback has major limitations. Their coach might be a lame duck. Their offensive line has been a mess. Their top red zone target can't stay on the field. And any bet on them making the playoffs this season would be a bad one.
And yet, if I could, I'd buy stock in them.
The basic, but often forgotten, principle of "buy low, sell high" is obviously in play here, but that's not all. There might not be a lot to like about where the Bengals are right now, but believe it or not, there is a lot to like about the Bengals.
A lot of it's long-term, and it's the long-view that's mattered to me more this season than anything. I did not believe the Bengals had a playoff-caliber team in 2017, and nothing that I've seen in four games has done anything to make me change my mind. I looked at this season as one important for building for 2018 and beyond, hopeful that the slew of young players the Bengals would be unleashing could combine with its established core to give us hope for bigger things down the road.
That can still happen, and in many respects, it is happening.
And as much as I've railed on and on about how an 0-2, then and 0-3, start would doom their season, I actually do hold out hope that this year's Bengals team can at least be relevant in the final five or six weeks.
Obviously, beating a Buffalo team against whom the Bengals are favored at home is imperative, but if they do win on Sunday, they'll have two weeks to prepare to play a Pittsburgh team that's scary but not yet playing the way many anticipated. Yes, the Steelers effectively own the Bengals. Yes, I will probably expect them to win. But given how ugly and close Bengals/Steelers games are, can you completely discount a rested - and hopefully, healthier - Bengals team at Heinz Field?
It's not hard to imagine them beating Indianapolis. It's not hard to imagine them beating Jacksonville. It might be hard to imagine beating Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, AND Jacksonville, but while a 3-1 mark in the next quarter of the season will be hard to achieve, getting to 4-4 is doable.
And then let's see where they are.
By then, maybe Bill Lazor is tapping into things that his predecessor couldn't. Maybe the rotation of offensive lineman is yielding better pass protection. Maybe the running back picture will be clearer. Maybe John Ross will be on the field. Maybe the flashes the young defensive players have shown will turn into something more consistent.
Maybe this season isn't over.
I can see the face you're making, and I can already read the tweets accusing me of gulping the orange and black Kool-Aid after one win over the meager Browns. But if you were looking at the Bengals at a stock, why wouldn't you buy? Maybe not for a short-term payoff, but for long-term dividends.
They have a nice group of young players. An established core. A decent track record of building quality rosters. They've shown a sense of urgency in swapping out coordinators and trying whatever's needed to fix the offense. They do have a quarterback who's good more than he's not. And they still have a chance to have a season that at least satisfies what I was looking for before it began.
1-3 is bad. The Bengals have been mostly bad. And yet, I feel pretty good about my investment in them.
BENGALS v. BILLS
I know a few people from Buffalo/upstate New York. They all do two things...
1) Remind all of us who don't drive like maniacs when it snows that people from Buffalo actually know how to drive in the snow. I don't even know what it means to "know how to drive in the snow." I've driven in a ton of snowy-type conditions and never have been in an accident. Does this mean I know how to drive like someone from Buffao?
2) Get in my face about how good the Bills are whenever they get off to a remotely decent start, only to pipe down by about Halloween.
I heard it in 2011, when the Bills came to Cincinnati 3-0 after beating the Patriots and then lost when Andy Dalton delivered in the clutch in front of about 87 people.
I heard it in 2014, when the Bills won back-to-back games to start the season, then went into their bye 5-3 before never being heard from again.
I heard it in 2015, when I was told not to go to Buffalo to see the Bengals play the 3-2 Bills because "BILLS NATION IS BACK BABAYYYYY."
I heard it last year, when the Rex Ryan won four straight games after an 0-2 start, in what's likely to be the final hurrah in Rex's storied head coaching career.
And I'm hearing it now, with the Bills at 3-1 after consecutive impressive wins over the Broncos and Falcons.
I'm not buying it.
Not that the Bills aren't formidable. Their defense is very good. LeSean McCoy is still a fine player. Their coach seems like he knows what he's doing.
But Tyrod Taylor is throwing to guys who drive salt trucks around Buffalo when it snows. The Bills do nothing scary on offense. And there's a big "man, they probably blew their wad the last two weeks" when you assess how the success of their past two weeks will translate into a win on the road against a desperate Bengals team.
This won't be pretty, but buy the stock now before the price goes up on Sunday around 4:00.
Bengals 19 Bills 9 (Cincinnati -3)
THERE ARE OTHER GAMES
Here's my problem with our outrage cycle.
Cam Newton says something to a female reporter that was sexist, fed into stereotypes, and highlighted some of the things that women in sports media have to constantly deal with. I believe he was guilty of a joke that just fell flat, something I've been guilty of 944343488098 times, but I get why what he said pissed so many people off.
So then people lose their minds. Columns are written. Takes are issued. Fallout is assessed. And, of course, WE DEMAND AN APOLOGY.
Which Cam Newton gave.
As apologies go, I thought that was pretty good. Seemed heartfelt. Genuine. Covered pretty much everything.
But of course, the apology is never enough.
I was listening to Mike and Mike this morning as Mike Greenberg read a few dozen or so tweets about Cam's apology, with picking apart every word, some doubting his authenticity, and more than a few chiming in with "too little, too late."
What else is he supposed to do?
I'm easy to reach, so tell me.
Last night's push sent me to a still-paltry 30-33-1 on the season. I should be thanking Nick Folk.
Giants (-3) over Chargers. I'd buy stock in the Giants too, mainly because we're talking about imaginary money.
Cleveland (-1) over the Jets. I need Hue Jackson to keep his job so people can keep telling me how great he is.
Jacksonville (+8) over Pittsburgh. Did you watch Le'Veon Bell last week? Now you know why he held out for all of training camp and the preseason. More good running backs should do what he did.
Miami over Tennessee (no line) It's fun to imagine Matt Barkley, Matt McGloin, and TJ Yates traveling together from city to city, working out for NFL teams, and not getting signed.
San Francisco (+1) over Indianapolis. Were you watching the Sunday night game last week? Indy. Seattle. For about five minutes, the Colts were in control, in part because Jacoby Brissett was playing capably. Cris Collinsworth tried for about three seconds to talk himself into a take about how the Colts could have a quarterback controversy if Brissett kept playing well, then realized the ridiculousness of what he was about to say and stopped dead in his tracks. Best TV moment of the NFL season that didn't involve Jim Nantz silently wondering how to shove Tony Romo out of the window of the broadcast booth.
Arizona (+6.5) over Philly. Because Nantz hates Romo. You can just tell.
Detroit (-2) over Carolina. I know I'll now buy yogurt because Cam Newton was dropped by whatever yogurt company he was doing commercials for.
Seattle (pick) over the Rams. Sean McVay is gonna start a trend where owners just start hiring kids right out of college to be their head coach.
Baltimore (-3) over Oakland. Get well soon, Derek Carr.
Green Bay (+2.5) over Dallas. Those shows where former sports writers scream at each other on TV will have graphics about Jason Garrett's seat being hot on the bottom of the screen on Monday.
Kansas City (-1) over Houston. At least the part of America that didn't know what a "bad beat" is, is now acutely aware of the term and what it means.
Chicago over Minnesota (No line) Did we settle on if it's Mitchell or Mitch?
NFL FAN FIGHT OF THE WEEK
Browns. Bills. Everyone here knows how to drive in the snow.
CINCINNATI v. CENTRAL FLORIDA
Multiple paragraphs like yesterday's aren't necessary. This is gonna be a tough next two weeks.
Knights 34 Bearcats 13 (Central Florida -17)
HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK
Buckeyes 38 Terrapins 7 (Ohio State -31)
Wildcats 34 Tigers 30 (Missouri +10)
Redhawks 27 Falcons 17 (Bowling Green +15)
Indiana 28 Charleston Southern 2
Dayton 66 Drake 6
I'm off to Nashville for the evening. Enjoy my favorite Bengals game of all-time.