Friday, September 08, 2006

Who Dey?

Rarely will you find commentary in this forum on sports other than hockey. Must admit to being really juiced about the opening of NHL play this fall.

I've been a Cincinnati Bengals fan since the late 60's - early 70's when my parents had season tickets and the team played in UC's Nippert Stadium. I got to go to one home game a year in those days. I could never figure out why dad wanted to take mom to games over me. I always picked either the Raiders or Chiefs game of that year. Ed Podolak and Fred Biletnikoff were my heroes as a kid. Bengal greats Bob Trumpy (who was a chain smoker in those days) and Bob Johnson (who wasn't) both lived on my street, but for some reason, no Bengal made my hero list when I was a kid. During the Bengals lean decades, my interest in the Carolina Panthers grew. Most of you by now have had ample opportunity to review Eric McErlain's Baltimore Ravens propaganda, so in the name of bringing some NFL balance to hockey blogdom, two posts will follow on my two favorite NFL teams. First up, Who Dey...

2006 Bengals Team Motto: "That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger"

Overview
Lots of negative news over the off season about Bengals with public safety issues. Chris Henry's serial boozing and speeding, Eric Steinbach's booze-cruise, Odell Thurman's off season trouble with weed, or if we are to believe Odell, just a insignificant problem keeping to his testing schedule. Adversity just seems to abound in the Queen City. Must be something in the water, or the chili. Marge, Robert Maplethorpe's naked men exhibit, Pete Rose, the list goes on. The good news is that this year's Bengals squad is jellin like fellons...so to speak.

The Division and the Schedule
With the exception of the Brownies, the play in the AFC North will be tough. The Superbowl champs, Ravens and Bengals might just be engaged in a little mutual assured destruction this year. Ravens enthusiasts are sure that Steve McCulpepper is the long-sought answer to their quarterback dilemma. After years of bravely playing hurt, he's brittle and broken, and on the downward leg of his career. And if and when he goes down, it's Kyle Boller time again. The Steelers continue to scare me. They just find a way to win. Last night, no Ben - no problem. They hung close and then capitalized on late Dolphin (read Culpepper) mistakes. The Bengals open in Kansas City and have New England, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Indy and Denver on the schedule. Ouch. The good news is that the Ravens and Steelers have to play NFC South teams as well. The Ravens however get to beat up on Buffalo and Tennessee - the Bengals and Steelers don't. To make the playoffs this year, the Bengals will have to earrrrrrrn it.

Key Personnel
Carson Palmer: Simple equation - Healthy Carson Palmer=Deep Playoff Run. Carson has great physical tools including a howitzer arm; he's calm in the pocket; a great decision maker, and he spreads the ball around enough to keep both Chad and TJ "Who's-Yer'-Momma" (love that commercial-kid deserves some sort of commercial acting-guy award) happy. And he's making a miraculous comeback from an exploded knee.

Rudi Johnson: The leagues 7th ranked rusher came to camp even leaner and meaner than last year. Who even remembers head-case Corey Dillon in stripes?

Chad the Ubiquitous: He's everywhere this year. He's been on the NFL Network all summer (I love the "Where ya at 85?" riff); he's dancing on the season TV schedule promo; he's cover-guy on the lastest NFL Street game, and he's featured on of one the Madden '07 ad vignettes. Good news is, despite all his flamboyance, Chad is no T.O. Cincinnati Enquirer columnist, Paul Daugherty, who spent a lot of time in the offseason working with Chad on a book, reports the mercurial star just lives, eats and breathes being a Cincinnati Bengal. His zeal is real, and according to Daugherty, he's learing how to channel his enthusiasm. And despite the presence of Drew Rosenhaus in the mix, Chad signed a multi-year deal to stay a Bengal. Note the lack of posturing or grandstanding in the process.

TJ: The best #2 receiver in football. The perfect balance to Chad in the offensive scheme. TJ takes the punishment over the middle and makes the tough catch at crunch time.

Odell Thurman: A little discipline would be nice. Odell better grow up during this suspension. He's way too talented to miss games because of some Columbian...no matter how fine. Look for him to come back fresher, meaner and more appreciative of his opportunity to play in this league. Look for Takeo Spikes, who once had Odell's role on this squad, and who bailed right before the Bengal turn-around, to play for a team that will continue to suck. Is it Monday yet in Buffalo, Ralph Wilson?

Willie Anderson and the O-line: Willie signed a deal to keep him a Bengal for the rest of his career. Look back just two years ago. Would you ever have thought anybody in the prime of their careers would want to be a Bengal for life? It took years, but the Mike Brown/Katie Blackburn team are finally getting it. You have to take care of good people if you want to create a winning organization. Carson Palmer was only sacked 19 times last season - Drew Bledsoe 49. Of the real-deal quarterbacks in the NFL, only Peyton Manning was sacked less times than Carson. Cincy also had the 11th ranked rushing attack in the league last year - better than Indy, Baltimore or New England. Bottom line-the boys on the O-line have Carson's back, and love to lay folks out for Rudi.

David Pollack and the D: Pollack blew his chance to prepare for last season when he held out until right before the start of the season. All reports are he's getting it, and eager to prove he he's the better Georgia Bulldog. Sam Adams is huge and a huge Marvin Lewis guy, and he should help stiffen what was a very weak run-defense last year. The defensive backfield corps was athletic, cocky and very opportunistic last year. The return of a healthy Madieu Williams at safety also bodes well for the men in stripes. New guy to watch - linebacker Ahmad Brooks. Taken in the supplemental draft; late of UVa, speed, size, killer instinct, and a proven discipline issues-guy, he should fit right in with fellow felons Henry, Frostee Rucker, Steinbach and A.J. Nicholson. Look for the boys to pop a few caps when necessary during a goal-line stands.

The Prediction
This is a band of brothers - not like those 101st Airborne guys in the HBO mini-series, more like the guys in The Dirty Dozen. Marvin Lewis will play the role of Lee Marvin in this epic. The Bengals will use the adversity to get and stay tight. They will finish 11-5; be AFC North Champs again, beat the Wildcard Steelers this time, and go on to defeat the hated Broncos in the AFC Championship. They'll then match up against my Panthers in the Superbowl. The Bengals will win the Superbowl because the same "Danger Jake" Delhomme who stunk up last year's NFC Championship will throw three critical interceptions in the second half. John Kasay will have a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation, but pull a hammy during the second half kickoff and then miss the critical late field goal attempt short and wide left. More on Danger Jake in my Panthers take to come.

1 comment:

huji said...

With the trades and acquisitions made going into the draft, plus the bulk of the team that is carried over from last season, and the trades and draft picks made during the draft, it sure seems like the Pats are going to be the team to beat in the AFC this season, and perhaps in all of the NFL.

Considering the Pats were almost in the Superbowl last season with a pathetic receiving corps and that they've added very talented players into said receiving corps this season, barring some nasty injury(ies), they look to be the team to take it all.I say injury(ies) because I think they could survive an injury or two to some positions, but if they lost Brady they'd probably have a hard time recovering.


I wish I could say that the Redskins did well in the draft and/or in free agency but so many holes still exist that I'm not sure they'll be significantly better than last season. I suppose on face they should be if they can keep their corners healthy. With Landry (argh, hard to type that name as a Redskin!!) back there with a healthy secondary they might be able to cheat up more and put more pressure on opposing QBs. Might.

They still have what should be a lot of talent in the receiving positions, and Campbell should be better, but they don't have the quality on either line (offense or defense) that I wish they'd have, so it could be yet another year of .500 at best, or worse.

Still, the NFC East looks to be the NFC Least again this season. None of the teams there look like they'll be that good, and none really look ready to step up and take the division.

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