Fay: Andy Dalton's steady, but not spectacular

CINCINNATI -- Andy Dalton was steady but not spectacular in Sunday’s 30-16 victory over the Browns.

His stats were pretty typical Dalton: 18 for 28, 214 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions.

Dalton got off to a terrible start this season. He had four interceptions and no TDs in his first two games. He's had 18 TDs and four interceptions since. He’s completing 64 percent his passes. His quarterback rating in 103.2. He’s only been better than that for a full year once in his career.

Fay: After victory over Browns, there's hope for Bengals' season again

In other words, he’s playing well enough for his team to win, thus the 5-3 record in the last eight games.

“Andy has done a good job of taking care of the football and managing our game,” coach Marvin Lewis said Sunday. “(The media) looks at running numbers, but we look at the efficiency of things. A lot of these throws are run plays, and he’s doing a great job with that. Those are the things that we have to continue to build upon. He’s done a nice job, and we have to keep pressure off of Andy and let him do his thing.”

Dalton’s resurgence coincides with Bill Lazor taking over as offensive coordinator. 

“(Dalton) has to run the offense. It comes through his eyes all the time,” Lewis said. “That’s something that Bill has done a good job being conscious of. Andy is confident with that — he’s done it for so many years that he knows that as we take care of the football, our opportunity to win games (increases).”

Dalton faces his biggest test of the year Monday: A win over the Pittsburgh would put the Bengals back in the playoff picture with four games to go. Dalton is 3-10 against the Steelers in his career. 

His chances against the Steelers look a lot better than they did before the Cleveland game. The Bengals were able to run the ball effectively and Dalton only was sacked once. 

If the quarterback can be steady but not spectacular against the Steelers, the Bengals have a shot.

Where's John(ny)?

John Ross being a healthy inactive again is getting a little troubling. He’s had enough practice time to know the offense well enough to help.

It’s too soon to label Ross a bust -- but this is beginning to look like a lost year. 

Pick 'em

It's hard to pick a favorite in the Crosstown Shootout. Xavier has played the tougher schedule, but the 102-86 loss to Arizona State shows the Muskies are vulnerable on the defensive end.

I think Xavier will be a slight favorite due, if nothing else, to the home-court advantage.

It should be an entertaining game. Both teams can score in bunches. But I don’t like the noon tipoff.

Winton rolls on

Winton Woods' impressive run in the playoffs continued with the 56-21 win over Massillon. I was talking with a high school coach from another program. He said Winton is harder to prepare for than any team in town because the Warriors can effectively run out of the pro set or run the option.

It’s pretty impressive when you score 56 unanswered points with your top running back out, like Winton did after Miyan Williams got hurt. Quarterback Kenny Mayberry is a special player. 

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