1) Eifert Out. By the time this season ends, the Bengals will have played 80 regular season games since the beginning of 2013, the year Tyler Eifert was drafted.
Tyler will have appeared in less than half of them.
In fact, he'll have appeared in fewer games than Margus Hunt, who was terrible when he was here, and doesn't even play for the Bengals anymore.
This illustrates two things. One, that Tyler has been the unfortunate victim of injuries and bad luck. His career has been completely derailed by an inability to stay healthy and his NFL future, sadly, appears to be very much in doubt.
Two, that the Bengals have had lots of practice playing - and planning to play - without Tyler Eifert.
In 2015, Tyler was a difference maker - a touchdown-scoring machine for one of the best teams in Bengals history, and the hope was that he was only scratching the surface, especially given the inevitability of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu leaving in free agency.
But as good as that season was for Tyler, it was his only exceptional season. His rookie year was far from a bust, but as the season played out, it felt like he was a forgotten man. He missed all but a part of one half of one game his second season, and he's played in a whopping ten games in 2016 and 2017. The Bengals would clearly be more productive and dangerous on offense if he was consistently available, but he hasn't been.
So his absence can''t be that jarring.
And it certainly can't be an excuse.
2) Strasburg delivers. Didi makes us wonder what-if.
All morning yesterday, I listened to talk-show hosts, screaming heads on TV, and hardened former players that never once begged out of the lineup when they were active telling their audiences that Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals didn't HAVE THE BALLS TO PITCH IN THE BIG GAME and that Game Four of the National League Division Series WAS MAYBE TOO BIG FOR HIM.
Yesterday afternoon, I watched Strasburg tie an outstanding Cubs lineup in knots. Seven innings. 12 punchouts. Total mastery in a game his team had to win. One of the best big-game performances you'll ever see. Imagine how he would've done had he possess the balls needed to throw in such an important tilt.
Then, last night I watched as the Yankees completed a pretty remarkable comeback, ending Cleveland's season with a 5-2 win in Game of the American League Division Series. Former Red Didi Gregorius hit two homers, drove in three, had three hits, and became the 98384348th New York Yankee to deliver in a big postseason moment. (Clearly, Didi has BALLS.)
This, of course, sent many Reds fans into a rage, remembering that Gregorius was traded by Cincinnati as part of a three-way deal that made Shin-Soo Choo a Red for 2013, a move that would pay off in the short term, as Choo gave the Reds the leadoff guy they needed - and have lacked since - and helped them to the playoffs.
It is very easy, and - to an extent - understandable, to wonder what would've happened had the Reds not traded Gregorius. Here's my guess...
The Reds would've gotten a leadoff hitter for 2013 that wouldn't have been as good as Shin-Soo Choo.
Gregorius would've been a part of a bunch of really bad Reds teams.
I remember the winter of 2012-'13 well. It was a tough time. We were reeling from the Reds' gag-job against the Giants, and an eventual Bengals postseason loss to the Chargers added to the depression. Amid all of that, we wanted the Reds to continue to go all-in and get the top-of-the-order table-setter that the otherwise outstanding 2012 team didn't have.
I don't remember anyone who didn't want the Reds to go get a good leadoff hitter.
So they did.
Once they did, I was comfortable with whatever happened with the players they moved on from, so long as the guy they got did what the Reds needed him to do.
3) Goodell in the middle. I admit to having had anthem protest take fatigue. Now though, an aspect of it fascinates me.
Specifically, the part where Roger Goodell is stuck in the middle.
Over here, is the President and his large and vocal group of supporters that want the anthem protests to end.
Over here, are the owners - for whom he works - who are opposed to anything that compromises the bottom line.
And over here, are his employees, many of whom are already unhappy with their boss, and with whom Goodell is going to bargain with when the current CBA is set to expire.
He runs the risk of alienating all three, even as he tries to appease all three.
Chances are, given Goodell's track record, somehow he'll eff it up.
I'm fascinated to see how he handles this.
I doubt I'm the only one.
Radio Show: Cincy 3:60 explores all angles on the Tyler Eifert story at noon, then we're back with some more hard-hitting sports at 3:05. Catch both on ESPN1530.
Recommended Link Of The Day: The Girl in the No. 8 Jersey