Hello from an aisle seat in an airplane traveling between Cincinnati and Dallas. It's a second straight weekend on the road with this week's trip to Texas hopefully providing something better and more palatable than last week's journey to Missouri.
Last Sunday was miserable, whether you were there in person or watching from afar.
The days since have been as well, with the requisite piling on that comes with a blowout loss on national television. Even if you listened closely, you'd be hard-pressed to hear anyone talking about the Bengals in optimistic tones, or sounding like they were discussing a potential playoff team that, through seven games, had more wins than losses.
I was disappointed, of course, but I had a hard time adding my voice to the chorus of people who sound like the season is over. I wish the Bengals had beaten Kansas City, or at least played better, but when my expectations aren't that high, I can't pretend that I'm all that furious or devastated with what happened at Arrowhead.
I didn't think they'd beat the Chiefs, and while a win might have sent us thinking that this season could be a special one, I've never deviated from what I believed before the opener.
This is a 9-7 team. Maybe a playoff squad. Probably not a division winner. And very, very much still a work in progress.
The amount of frustration and angst should be commensurate with the level of expectation.
My expectations for this team haven't changed.
They're better than they have been. They're not as good as they need to be.
BENGALS v. BUCCANEERS
Here are some Bengals opinions...
*The Bengals should absolutely be open to making trades at the deadline. Trades are a bigger part of the NFL than they've been in a long time, and aggressiveness is winning in sports more than ever. The Steelers are likely to get one of the best offensive players in the league back. They'll be better than they are right now, and they're leading the division. What are the Bengals going to do?
They might not make a deal, which is fine. A lot goes into determining whether a trade is made. Maybe what they're looking for isn't available. Maybe their proposals to other teams are turned down. But if the suggestion that the Bengals won't be open to a trade because "it's just not something they do" holds water, then I don't want to hear anymore about how different this team is.
*I believe the misusage of Joe Mixon has more to do with Andy Dalton than people realize. I think he checks out of running plays way too often.
*Marvin Lewis sounds exasperated with questions about Vontaze Burfict because he's exasperated with Vontaze Burfict. I've heard and seen exasperated-at-one-of-his-guys Marvin Lewis before. The final years of the Chad Johnson era come to mind. When production no longer made the baggage worth it, Marvin started to publicly grow impatient. A decade later, the same thing is happening.
*I will play the must-win card this week. If the Bengals win this Sunday, the road to the playoffs is pretty open. A loss, and I have a hard time believing they'll play in the postseason.
*I believe the Bengals will win on Sunday. Dalton rarely has back-to-back bad games, the Bucs are a mess defensively, and even though their downfield weapons are scary, the Tampa Bay offense is pretty one-dimensional, and Jameis Winston just doesn't scare me.
*Also, I always find value in teams coming off of blowouts.
Bengals 24 Bucs 17 (Cincinnati -5.5)
THERE ARE OTHER GAMES
In order of confidence....
Washington (-1) over the Giants. I don't know if the Redskins are good. I know the Giants aren't.
New England (-14) over Buffalo. According to Football Outsiders, the Bills offense is the worst through a season’s first seven games since 1986, when the site started tracking Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This number is big. I'd lay the points if it was bigger.
Detroit (-3) over Seattle. Lions made the best deal of the week. Snacks Harrison will help a team that's rounding into form.
Green Bay (+9.5) over the Rams. The Rams have played Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, and Russell Wilson. Those three QBs put up 85 points combined. The Rams won big last week, but their previous three wins came by a combined 12 points. LA is good, really good. So is Aaron Rodgers.
Kansas City (-10) over Denver. Their first meeting was a great game. Their second one won't be.
Minnesota (-1) over New Orleans. Kirk Cousins > Case Keenum.
Pittsburgh (-8.5) over Cleveland. We sure are hearing from Todd Haley a lot, aren't we?
Baltimore (-1.5) over Carolina. Interesting line. Vegas doesn't care that Justin Tucker missed that kick last week.
Jacksonville (+3) over Philadelphia. The Super Bowl hangover is real. So is the we-gave-away-the-AFC-Championship-Game-Because-Our-Coach-Was-Scared hangover.
(San Francisco (+1) over Arizona. I'm not trusting the Cardinals as a favorite.
Chicago (-7) over the Jets. Tough game to pick. Give me the team with Khalil Mack.
Last week: 9-5
Last night: 1-0
This season: 62-44-3
CINCINNATI v. SMU
I'm running short on both time and battery. Desmond Ridder has to be better this week. It says here he will be. Cats win. Mustangs cover. Gonna be a fun next few weeks on the UC campus.
Bearcats 31 Mustangs 24
THERE ARE OTHER GAMES
Missouri (-7) over Kentucky
Houston (-7.5) over USF
Arkansas (-1.5) over Vanderbilt
UMass/UConn under 65
Dayton over Butler
Enjoy your weekend.