Greetings from somewhere above whatever’s between Cincinnati and Kansas City, or I guess to be specific, whatever’s between Cincinnati and Atlanta, which is where we’re connecting on my way to KC.
I’m making my maiden voyage to both KC and Arrowhead Stadium hoping for good barbeque and a win for the road team.
Which, if things had gone just slightly differently last week, wouldn’t seem as far-fetched as it does right now.
BENGALS v. CHIEFS
Let’s say that on what ended up being the game-winning play for the Steelers last week at Paul Brown Stadium, Antonio Brown catches Ben Roethlisberger’s pass, but instead of carrying it free and easy into the end zone, he drops the ball as he gallops toward paydirt, with a Bengals defender recovering the fumble, with demons ultimately being exorcised as the Cincinnati offense takes a couple of snaps in the victory formation.
Had that happened, not only would we not have spent much time this week hammering things like Marvin Lewis’ crappy coaching (he was awful last night), or the offense’s unwillingness to use Joe Mixon often, or even the defense’s complete and total lack of pass rush. Nor are we crushing Vontaze Burfict for playing like a jackass as much as we did last week.
Instead, we would have been sent into a dizzying frenzy of optimism, with the mighty Steelers vanquished and buried near the bottom of the AFC North, and a Kansas City team on the horizon ripe for an upset.
Had the Bengals won last week, we’d be loudly talking ourselves into a win over the Chiefs, emphatically proclaiming that against what’s been a historically bad defense, the Bengals - with Andy Dalton coming off of his finest-ever performance against the Steelers - could walk into Arrowhead Stadium and shock the NFL’s most entertaining team.
Instead, we’ve all but counted out the Bengals this week, assuming that last week’s misery will be doubled. A secondary that was beaten up against Pittsburgh is going to be shredded against the league’s most explosive, most diverse offense, and a Bengals pass rush that was once considered to be a strength of the team isn’t going to come close to touching Pat Mahomes a week after not coming within the same area code as Ben Roethlisberger.
These things might be true. It’s hard to imagine the Bengals being able to consistently get stops against this Chiefs offense, especially given the carnage in the secondary. Watching tight ends abuse the middle of the defense all season makes me believe that Travis Kelce is due for a big day, and as much as we’ve talked about Tyreek Hill, the guy that worries me on Sunday is Sammy Watkins.
I believe the Bengals can score. Dalton is playing well. He has two wideouts both having killer seasons, and I think Joe Mixon will be a focal point in an effort to keep Mahomes and company off the field.
But six weeks of watching the Chiefs do their thing offensively, in creative and efficient ways, leaves me believing that this task is just a little too tall for Cincinnati. I don’t buy into the whole “they’re gonna get boatraced” narrative that so many have beaten into the ground this week. I like this Bengals team. I like them enough to not completely discount that they could win. Enough to pick them to cover the six points Vegas is giving them. Enough to believe that they won’t get blown out, either this week or in any of the other ten.
But not enough to guess that they’d win.
Had Antonio Brown fumbled last week, you’d be telling me that I’m wrong.
Chiefs 35 Bengals 31 (Cincinnati +6)
THERE ARE OTHER GAMES
In order of confidence….
Washington (-1.5) over Dallas. Should we start exploring whether or not Jay Gruden is actually a good coach?
Tampa Bay (-3) over Cleveland. Bengals/Bucs is gonna be a better game next week than you think.
Miami (+3) over Detroit. I’m a sports nerd, but not so much that I knew that Brock Osweiler was on the Dolphins. So, um, good for him.
Indianapolis (-7.5) over Buffalo. Derek Anderson’s first win since December 2014 will have to wait another week.
New England (-3) over Chicago. The fact that Bill Belichick threw water on any comparisons between Khalil Mack and Lawrence Taylor is only a story to those who never saw Lawrence Taylor play.
Jacksonville (-5) over Houston. Look out, AFC. The Jags have Carlos Hyde now.
Minnesota (-3) over the Jets. Adam Theilen should break a record this Sunday, and you know what record that is, then you’ve achieved my level of sports fan nerd-dom. Or, you have the internet. Either way.
Carolina (+4.5) over Philadelphia. One day, I want to host talk shows centered around the topic of whether the Bengals are suffering from a Super Bowl hangover.
Baltimore (-2.5) over New Orleans. Game of the weekend, and a chance for the Ravens to seize control of their division. That’s some hard-hitting analysis by me.
San Francisco (+9.5) over the Rams. CJ Beathard > AJ McCarron. Actually, no. That’s not saying much for CJ, now is it?
Tennessee (+6.5) over the Chargers. It’s a good rule in life to not go where you’re not wanted. I could elaborate on this, but I’d get in trouble. Anyway, the Charger shouldn’t have moved to LA.
Giants (+5.5) over Atlanta. Has anyone found thinkpieces about Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill losing his mind at a container of candy during a playoff game this week? If so, send one my way,
This season: 52-39-3
Last week: 10-5
Last night: 1-0
CINCINNATI v. TEMPLE
Here is a UC football opinion: If the Bearcats beat Temple, they will finish with ten wins.
Here is another UC football opinion: The Bearcats are going to improve in the second half. The offense will expand. The experience younger players accumulated in the first half will pay dividends in the second half, some younger guys will get more time.
Here is yet another UC football opinion: The lack of quality teams on UC’s schedule to this point has to be taken into consideration when assessing what the Bearcats have done so far this season. You can do that and still be happy with the progress Luke Fickell’s team has made.
Here is still another UC football opinion: It would be cool if someone who knows anything about Kansas City could tell me the best place to watch college football, guaranteeing that at least one TV would be on the UC/Temple game.
And one more UC football opinion: I have a less-than-good feeling about this game. Temple has done a nice job against the run. The Bearcats have gotten off to a number of bad starts. It’ll be a noon kick in an empty stadium with UC playing a team that’s trending slightly upward.
Owls 24 Bearcats 20 (Temple -3)
Purdue (+13.5) over Ohio State
Kentucky (-11) over Vanderbilt
Army (-7.5) over Miami
Indiana (+14) over Penn State
Clemson (-16.5) over NC State
UCF (-21 ) over ECU
USC (+7) over Utah
Navy (+12.5) over Houston.
Thanks. Thanks a lot.