For all the much-deserved criticism of the NFL's Thursday night package, there is something warmly gratifying about a nice Friday the day after your team improves to 2-0.
Two Bengals thoughts before the obligatory run of football guesses....
One is something I touched on in an earlier blog about the win over Baltimore, but it bears repeating: The Bengals, for the most part, looked really sharp against Baltimore. Not perfect, not without things that must be cleaned up, but sharp.
That's not insignificant, given how short the week was, how young the team is, and mainly, how different the makeup of the coaching staff is. The Bengals looked like a really well-prepared team on Thursday night, with extra points given to any team that doesn't look out of sorts given how often TNF games are a complete mess.
The other thought is about Joe Mixon's knee injury, which willl require surgery that will keep him out for at least two games, according to reports.
Consider me worried. Or, at least mildly concerned.
The good news is that the Bengals have plenty of competent weapons, including a running back who's no slouch when it comes to making plays in Giovani Bernard. Plus, the Bengals have built a little bit of a cushion with two wins to start the season, and no one seems to believe the Mixon will really miss more than a handful of games.
That said...it is a knee injury, and while it might be a "minor" knee injury, I wonder things like speed and elusiveness will be compromised when Mixon does return. Can he go under the knife, recuperate, and be back to himself in just a handful of weeks?
AJ Green aside, there's probably no more important skill player on the Bengals than Joe Mixon, but that statement is predicated on raw athletic ability that's helped the Bengals get off to a hot start. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little concerned about Mixon being able to show off that athleticism in the short term.
THERE ARE OTHER GAMES
Minnesota (+1) over Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers' availability hovers over this. So too does a lingering question: Does Mike Zimmer really not own a TV? He claims he doesn't. I'm not sure I believe him. Instead, this is the latest example of a football coach doing what he can to stay on-brand, dismissing anything that doesn't have a direct impact on whether or not his team wins. I don't know anyone who doesn't own a TV, and frankly, I think anyone that doesn't own a TV is weird.
Jacksonville (+1) over New England. I do, other other hand, believe Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone when he says that it's been years since he watched a Super Bowl.
Philadelphia (-3) over Tampa Bay. Fitzpatrick vs. Foles. Winning QB gets gets to own the Elite Backup Quarterback title for the year.
Rams (-13) over Arizona. It took until 2018 for a coach to rest all of his main guys for the entire preseason? And it took a head coach who's like 18 years old? How many copycat coaches go the Sean McVay route next August? Hopefully all of them.
Detroit (+6) over San Francisco. I'll take games I wouldn't go near for a hundred, Alex.
Jets (-3) over Miami. That Jets team I watched against the Lions on Monday night was a lot of fun. I actually think it'd be a lot of fun if the Jets were ever actually good for a sustained time. Hardened fan base, underdog in its own town, terrific uniforms, etc. I kinda want this to happen. Based on what I say in the opener, I think it might.
New Orleans (-8.5) over Cleveland. Went back and forth on this one, finally settling on the Saints at home, which will inch us closer to the Todd Haley Era in Cleveland.
Kansas City (+4) over Pittsburgh. I feel like I'm drinking the KC Kool-Aid a little too much here, but there was nothing to like about how the Steelers played against the Browns last week, and there's a lot to love about the speed the Chiefs have on offense, and the way Pat Mahomes played against the Chargers. We're all going to do the "you know, the Bengals could win the AFC North" thing on Monday.
Carolina (+6) over Atlanta. Whoever loses this game, we will assume will lose to the Bengals later this month.
Indy (+6) over Washington. I might have written off Adrian Peterson too prematurely. 'Skins win, Colts cover.
Dallas (-3) over Giants. Dak Prescott was terrible against Carolina last week. He won't play that poorly again this week, right?
Oakland (+6) over Denver. Meh.
Houston (-1.5) over Tennessee. You could watch an entire 60 minutes of the Texans and see like four different games. No team in the NFL can be as inept and as good in the same game. I'll bet on them being more good than bad against a Titans team that was stuck in the mud last week.
Chargers (-7.5) over Buffalo. Josh Allen ain't Pat Mahomes.
Chicago (-3.5) over Seattle. The Bears have Jordan Howard and Khalil Mack. The Seahawks have still have cool uniforms.
Last week: 9-6-1
This season: 9-7-1
CINCINNATI v. ALABAMA A&M
Who had UC playing its first home game with an 0-2 record coming in?
It's a nice chance this week for the Bearcats to sort some things out offensively, namely throwing the ball, while continuing to work in some of the younger guys on both sides of the ball. I had UC at 5-7 to start the season. Now, it feels like 6-6 should be the worst-case record, and while I stop short of saying they'll be this good, you could talk me into 9-3.
You can't talk me into the Bearcats covering when laying 43 points.
Alabama A&M (+43) over Cincinnati
DON'T WORRY, PUMPKIN
TCU (+13) over Ohio State. Buckeyes win. God help whoever is in charge of monitoring the signs for ESPN's College Gameday.
Miami (+13.5) over Minnesota. Is Chuck Martin a good coach?
Murray State (+42.5) over Kentucky.
Dayton (+10.5) over Duquesne. This is an actual line.
Toledo (+12) over Miami (FL)
Vanderbilt (+13.5) over Notre Dame
Auburn (-10) over LSU
Utah (+5) over Washington
North Texas (+6) over Arkansas
Enjoy your weekend.
(Photo: Getty Images)