I'm going out on a major limb here: I fully expect the Bengals to score a touchdown Sunday in Green Bay.
I know, it's a crazy thought that may qualify me for therapy. But there I said it. I'll say it again: I fully expect the Bengals to score a touchdown in Green Bay this Sunday.
Great expectations for a team that hasn't found the end zone in its first two games.
But this has nothing to do with the dismissal of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, nor the promotion of quarterbacks coach Tom Lazor. It has everything to do with the amount of talent the Bengals have. They have a lot more than they've shown so far this season.
The biggest problem the Bengals have is their most obvious -- they don't block very well.
You can point to the play of their two struggling tackles, but Andy Dalton has gotten a lot of pressure from the middle of the pocket. The Bengals have raved about Dalton's "quick release" in the past. That's great, but virtually every pass route in the NFL is a timing route. Just because Dalton can get rid of the ball an instant doesn't mean much when a receiver doesn't have time to run the correct route.
The underlying problem with the Bengals' offense is that it hasn't established a consistent running attack. It managed just 82 yards against the Houston Texans. Against the Baltimore Ravens it was a more anemic 77 yards. In neither game were the Bengals "out of it" and had to throw.
When you can't run, safeties sneak up, the box is stacked and the results are... well, you know the rest of the story.
So those are the troubles. Now, how do you fix them? Anyone can point out a problem. The smart guys in the room have solutions.
I don't know if any of this will work, but it's worth a try.
First thing to do is bench Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. Give Joe Mixon the ball 25 times a game. Look, for all of the flak the Bengals took for drafting him -- along with the baggage he brought here -- they might as well play him. It was his game-breaking speed and his ability to break tackles that attracted the Bengals to Mixon. He's here, play him.
Hill and Bernard are decent players, but they're not the future. Rotating three running backs into a game is sheer chaos. And more than anything, this is probably what cost Zampese his job. Lazor shouldn't make the same mistake.
He needs to make Mixon his featured back. Give him carries. Let him establish a flow. The great ones will get stopped for no gain or stopped after two or three yards. Then they'll bust off a 20-yarder. When an offense rotates three backs, no one gets a chance to do something like that.
The other thing Lazor should do is play John Ross, a lot. If you draft a luxury, you need to play that luxury. He does you no good sitting on the bench.
Look, in my opinion -- well stated before the draft -- the Bengals needed to get better players on their offensive line.
I even suggested drafting Alabama tight end O.J. Howard if no other offensive lineman in the draft was deemed worthy of a ninth overall pick. The Bengals have issues with Tyler Eifert -- contract and injury issues. Howard would not only have been able to help block, he could very well have been the Bengals tight end past 2017.
OK, so they didn't listen to me. I'm crushed.
But benching Ross after he fumbled against the Texans was just plain dumb. The fumble was a perfect storm. A Texans defender put his helmet on the ball that Ross was carrying and it flew into the hands of one of the more athletic defensive lineman in the game, Jadeveon Clowney. It's a low percentage, the chance of that exact play happening.
But to bench Ross, who has the speed to blow the top off a defensive secondary, wasn't very smart. The whole idea behind drafting Ross was to make safeties choose whom to double cover -- Ross or A.J. Green. Guess what safeties are doing now? The answer was three paragraphs ago.
When Dalton does throw, it's A.J. Green getting double covered. Play Ross and throw the ball to Green.
The Bengals defense seems to be getting a pass for a lot of what's gone down in the first two games. Not from me. The one theme you heard from that side of the ball all off-season was it had to "make plays." Well, where are their plays?
They had zero interceptions and zero fumbles recovered against the Texans. They had just one interception and no fumbles recovered against the Ravens. If you're not taking the ball away and giving your offense a shorter field to operate on, you're helping the cause.
So can the Bengals turn their season around in Green Bay Sunday? It's highly unlikely. The Packers have just been torched by the same team (the Falcons) that knocked them out of the playoffs last season. It's hard to see them losing two in a row, especially since this game is at Lambeau Field.
The smart money says the Bengals are 0-3 after Sunday. But if they start doing some of these things, they may have a shot at salvaging a season without having to fire a few more bodies along the way.
Now then, to other pertinent topics that are cascading around inside my head like directionless marbles.
Just because there's nothing better than some Steelers news to get your blood pressure up, how about this from Sports Illustrated?
Meantime, the Browns play the Colts this weekend. If you can stomach what ought to be a wretched football game, you may see a Browns win if you watch. The Browns are a road favorite for the first time since Otto Graham's career ended ... well, maybe an overstatement there.
I like all of this good, young Reds pitching that I've seen over the last six weeks. My excitement is tempered by a couple of things. 1-It's easy to play good baseball when you're relaxed. And nothing relaxes an athlete like NOT being involved in the pressure of a pennant races. 2-September baseball is conducted with deeper rosters and a lot of teams are playing personnel to gauge their long-term futures. But those qualifications have limited value.
I think the Reds have a long way to go to find seven to nine starting pitchers for 2018. Make no mistake about it, with the rate pitchers get hurt, you need at least that number to contend.
Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle have all earned the right to be 'penciled' in for a spot in the 2018 starting rotation. Robert Stephenson has been more encouraging than discouraging in his current incarnation with the Reds. Homer Bailey has been steady as well. So there's five who could give the Reds a decent core for their starting rotation.
They still need to find at least two more, probably by free agent signing. I'm not counting, nor should they, on Anthony Desclafani or Brandon Finnegan. If they're back, great.
In honor of the great Bob Seger, in Cincinnati tonight for what he says is the very last time, may I present my favorite Seger song of all time.
Can't believe it was 37 years ago when this was from his "new album," but it was, from the album of the same name.
Some of that album was recorded with The Swampers, the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. But this song was recorded with Seger famous "Silver Bullet Band."
Paul Harris was the pianist who's featured on the album. The late Glenn Frey, of Eagles fame, sings background vocals.
The album was Seger's only No. 1 album to date. The song peaked at No. 5.
Seger was a cross-country runner in high school and said in an interview years ago that the idea for the song came from his days running through the landscape of Michigan.
Seger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. He's 72. Forgetting live and greatest hits compilations, Bob Seger has recorded 17 studio albums, including one that came out in 2014. He's an amazing talent.