Let's start with something that this city needed badly: The Reds/Dodgers trade.
Count me as all-in on what the Reds did on Friday, which I think was a no-brainer, mainly because getting four living, breathing human beings back in exchange for Homer Bailey is a win. Getting back four big league players plus seven million dollars...are you kidding???
There is literally no downside to this deal. Bailey was never going to start for the Reds again, and I don't believe he would've ever toed he rubber for them in a big league game. I don't know how long Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood will be here, but even if the Reds aren't in the race in late July, all three have the potential to be decent trade commodities around next summer's deadline, and given the sudden surplus of corner outfielders, they Reds now have more chips to make deals with this offseason.
Each of the guys they're getting from the Dodgers is more movable than Homer Bailey, who again, they just traded for four Major League players, including three former All-Stars!!!!!!!
No deal happens in a vacuum, and the really fun thing is to think about what this offseason could hold given the fact that the Reds have moved on from Bailey's toxicity, they've overhauled 40 percent of the starting rotation, they have added to an already capable offense, they've yet to spend a dime in free agency, and they still have their best and most prized prospects.
Dick Willams talked at length last night about how the Reds are just getting started. I believe him, and even though the Reds' road back to contention remains a long one, with the kind of jolt-providing move that this city's sports fans desperately needed, it's suddenly fun to start thinking and talking about baseball again.
Two things before we get to the football stuff...
I spoke with Dick Williams an hour or so after last night's deal was announced. You can listen to that interview here.
I wrote about how the Reds' newfound aggressiveness and Yasiel Puig are both very, very sharp departures from what we're used to. I'd find it very kind of you if you went ahead and read this.
Bengals v. Browns...
The Reds have me re-energized about baseball, the UC Bearcats just played the program's best game ever (an exaggeration, but only a slight one), I hit a Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl lowlife two-teamer, and James Dolan is open to selling the Knicks. Life, suddenly, is quite good.
And even better, there's only two Bengals games left.
Here's where this team has me,and I'm guessing you: As a lifelong fan whose team is playing its two biggest rivals the next two Sundays, I'm actually finding myself hoping they lose both. Not that taking L's against the Browns and Steelers would guarantee change, but change seems a lot more likely if the Bengals finish 6-10 than if they match last year's 7-9 mark, or - and this seems impossible - if they go 8-8.
This is rock bottom as a fan, when you'd prefer your team lose to hated opponents, just to increase the chances that the head coach doesn't come back. It's not supposed to be this way.
Actually, if the Bengals did pull off upsets in these next two games (they won't), to finish 8-8, 2018 could go down as one of Marvin Lewis' finest coaching jobs. With the players he's lost, the midseason coordinator change he had to make, and the youth spread out all over his team, a one-game improvement from last season could actually be viewed as bang-up work by the head coach.
And I still wouldn't want him back. That's how unlikely it seems that the Bengals will ever win big with Marvin. Judging him and his future isn't about this season, it's about the direction the NFL is going in and how the Bengals are in jeopardy of being behind the curve as the league moves in a more aggressive direction.
It's also about equity. Marv's spent it all the cache he'd earned during the good times, which really weren't that good to begin with.
With that equity exhausted, I'm left to wonder if, for the first time in my life, when the ball gets kicked on Sunday, I'll be rooting for the team not wearing the orange and black helmets.
This, my friends, is rock bottom.
Browns 24 Bengals 16 (Cincinnati +9.5)
There are other games....
Let's go in order of confidence this week...
New Orleans (-6) over Pittsburgh. Yes, the Saints' offense has cooled considerably, and yes, the Steelers are coming off of a home win against the Patriots, but Pittsburgh has two wins against teams that have winning records - the Pats are a mess and they beat the Ravens pre-Lamar Jackson - they're on the road against a New Orleans team that's a win away from clinching home field, and their offense is due for a rebound, especially at home.
Houston (+2.5) over Philadelphia. The Eagles were great last week against the Rams, but the story in that game was how confused LA's defense looked and how much urgency Sean McVay's team lacked on offense. The Texans won't let up similarly, and with the better team getting the points, I feel confident in Houston.
Indianapolis (-9.5) over the Giants. I don't give two shits about the Pro Bowl, but I have no idea how Andrew Luck and Darius Leonard weren't picked, and I have no idea why New York would let Saquon Barkley play. This will be a rout.
Chicago (-4) over San Francisco. Come back, Jimmy G.
Buffalo (+13) over New England. Patriots win. Josh Allen has an eye-opening game.
Baltimore (+4.5) over the Chargers. I'm as big of a Lamar Jackson as you could be when you don't like UofL football and you root for a team in his division. He's gone quickly from being undersold to a little (just a little) overrated. He's not yet where he will be as a thrower. Still, I think he helps the Ravens win ugly, and with that defense getting more than a field goal, I'll take the road team.
Detroit (+5.5) over Minnesota. The Vikings' road woes continue, and I'll wonder even more if Mike Zimmer really is the genius so many love to make him out to be.
Jacksonville (+4) over Miami. Woof.
Jets (+2.5) over Green Bay. We have arrived at the point where coaching the Cleveland Browns seems more desirable than coaching the Green Bay Packers. I don't like where we are.
Atlanta (-3.5) over Carolina. No Cam, no chance. I sold the Panthers stock too late. Not my first bad investing choice.
Rams (-14) over Arizona. The win over Kansas City feels like it was a lifetime ago, and the Rams suddenly look very, very pedestrian. They get healthy this week against the league's worst team that isn't the Raiders.
Washington (+10) over Tennessee. This has everything to do with not trusting the Titans and a double-digit number.
Kansas City (-2.5) over Seattle. It just doesn't feel like Russell Wilson has it in him to keep up with Pat Mahomes.
Dallas (-7) over Tampa Bay. I sold my stock in both of these teams at precisely the right time.
Denver (-2.5) over Oakland. Two eliminated teams playing what might be the final NFL game in a terrible stadium after two fun days of consequential games. This won't exactly be the ideal Monday Night experience, you know?
Last week: 9-6-1
This season: 121-97-6