I was settling in for a nice little Sunday. As much of a Bengals fan as I am, there's something I enjoy about a stress-free bye week and the ability to spend an afternoon with the Red Zone Channel and an entire league's worth of Sunday tilts at my disposal. Throw in some nice weather, mobile devices that work just as well outside as indoors, and a quality cigar, and my Sunday was set.
Then I saw the report about AJ Green, who, according to a few different reports, is going to miss "some games" with a toe injury.
The news was jarring, even if not completely surprising. He was, after all, seen in a walking boot last week. But in a season that's been filled with almost non-stop bad news on the injury front, this latest development is particularly sobering. The Bengals have been limited enough offensively even with on the field having a productive season, now they're much, much easier to defend and the team as a whole seems, right now at least, ill-equipped to overcome his absence.
The obvious onus will be on John Ross, who was drafted more with the idea of one day replacing AJ Green than complementing him. The problem is, he's been so unable to do the latter, that it's impossible to expect him to do the former, and he's been healthy so infrequently that counting on him is like counting on a winning lottery ticket to solve your financial woes.
The pressure should shift to Joe Mixon, and to Bill Lazor to figure out ways to best utilize him, although opposing defenses will obviously key in on the Bengals' running game more.
And there'd be no better time for the defense to start demonstrating some level of competence. The Bengals' formula for winning this season has often involved simply outscoring opponents. That task has been made taller, at least for "some games" with AJ's absence.
The good news is that the AFC as a whole is very underwhelming. A Baltimore win yesterday would've been more ideal, but the Ravens right now lack the profile of a playoff team, and the Bengals do have a head-to-head win against them. I'm not a believer in the Dolphins, despite their 5-4 record, and Cincinnati does have a tiebreaker advantage against Miami. The Titans and Jags are both a mess, the Colts are still effectively three games behind, and even if the Chargers are ahead of them in the race for a wild card spot, the Bengals do at least get to play them in a stadium that provides LA almost no home field advantage.
The game that the whole Bengals playoff push seems to hinge on is the one in Baltimore in two weeks. Get that one, and they'll at least have six wins, and a tiebreaker edge over the Ravens, with four games they'll likely be favored in on the schedule.
But after finding out that AJ Green will be out for at least a little while, the thought of beating the Ravens again just became a lot more difficult, and my nice little Sunday became a lot less enjoyable.
Here's some stuff....
*The Saints are the best team in football. I'm big on the Rams, but their defense seems predicated on Aaron Donald not being blocked, which if he is, exposes a secondary that's not as good as its reputation suggests. New Orleans has the more complete team, and even though they're a different beast at home, they seem more well-equipped to win on the road than any Saints team in years.
So that'll be fun next Sunday.
*I think the Steelers and Chiefs are better than the Patriots. Pittsburgh is rounding into form nicely. KC has more firepower offensively. I said those things. Actually, I wrote them.
You're really getting some incredibly heavy pro football analysis, aren't you?
*A blog I would've written last week: The one about how the Bengals stayed on-brand by doing nothing at the deadline, even if doing nothing at the deadline could be completely justified.
*Cats win big. Saturday was the most emphatic UC performance in years, and with an eighth victory in nine games, a ten-win season isn't just hoped for, it should be expected. The defense is getting better and better, thriving with a level of preparation that's striking to anyone who watched UC play over the past three seasons, and the running game continues to be very, very strong.
I'm not saying they will beat UCF, nor am I saying that they should, but am I giving the Bearcats a puncher's chance a week from Saturday? Absolutely.
*Cats lose. Disappointing Saturday for Kentucky, who at least steered clear of the chance to get blown out by Alabama in the SEC title game. Speaking of a ten-win season, that's a very real possibility for a program that many thought was stuck in neutral before the season. There's a good read of UK football here.
*Urban Meyer's team looks like its going through the motions.
*A blog I would've written last week: One about my exhibition game experience last week at the new Fifth Third Arena. Like the basketball team it houses, the new place is a work in progress, with work to be done, touches to be added, and improvements to be made. I trust that those things will happen to our satisfaction, even if they don't happen as quickly as we'd like.
They say you never go to a restaurant within the first 90 days of its opening, you know?
But whatever they need to fix, they got the macro stuff right. The old gym has been transformed into a modern college basketball arena, aesthetically-pleasing, and more than just functional. Yes, they need to get the public address system tweaked, and no UC game should be played sans stats or without the banners commemorating national titles, league championships, and NCAA appearances.
But the positives outweigh the negatives, which I trust are temporary. The new place is awesome.
Here's some other stuff....
*This is incredible.
*I had no idea we live in the birthplace of astronomy.
*I'm not a big Rex Ryan fan, but I did enjoy this podcast.
*This is a great piece on someone whose work I devoured as a kid.
Radio Today: The bye week edition of the Tony and Mo Football Show is at 3:05 on ESPN1530.
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