The mediocrity of the AFC North may help the Bengals get into the playoffs.
In a phrase, the AFC North is "not good." The Ravens put on another lethargic show in New Jersey Sunday and handed a win to the Giants. The Steelers will be without Ben Roesthlisberger for at least a game. And that team is night and day, road and home. And the Browns? Well, the Browns are up to their usual terrible again this season.
The conventional thinking before this season was that the Steelers would win the division with upwards of 13 wins. But given their horrid road play and the loss of their quarterback for the moment, that's not happening. The Ravens have just lost their third game in a row. And the Bengals? Well, they've been an uninspired lot too. At this point, nine wins could do the trick. But it may also mean that only one team emerges from the AFC North as a playoff team, the eventual division champion.
So now standing at 2-4 with a very winnable game coming up against Cleveland this Sunday in Cincinnati, the horizon for the Bengals isn't as bad as what it might be in a normally-strong year for the North. Since 1990, only 9.6 percent of teams that start a season 2-4 have made the playoffs. But this isn't a typical year. History may not play the role it has in the past.
Make no mistake about it, the Bengals have a lot of heavy lifting to do before they can start making plans for January. For openers, their offensive line isn't playing well. 2015 first round pick Cedric Obuehi was benched Sunday for ineffective play. Starting center Russell Bodine left the field on a cart after an injury. And he was viewed by most (though not his position coach) as the weak link among that starting five.
Defensively, no one is making big plays. No one is taking the ball away. And that side of the ball desperately cries out for what Reggie Nelson did last season. It's not happening.
And on offense, where are the "big splash plays?" Where are the plays that cover 25, 30 and 40 yards? More disturbing, is there now a blue print for stopping A.J. Green? The Steelers, Broncos, Cowboys and now the Patriots have effectively neutered the Bengals' best weapon. He's been targeted at least eight times in every game. And his 606 receiving yards has Green on pace for career year. But in the Bengals four losses, he's averaging just five catches a game and has failed to catch a touchdown in every one of those losses.
The schedule will even out now. The Bengals won't be playing great teams on a week-to-week basis. But until they start playing better, their best chance for making the playoffs this season is the mediocrity of the rest of their division.
Random thoughts from the weekend past...
Really, Joe Flacco is nothing more than a .500 quarterback since he signed his contract after the 2012 Super Bowl. And he looked totally disengaged in the final minute of the Ravens loss to the Giants....
The Browns were more competitive Sunday. But this is a really bad football team. The only thing that's keeping the fanbase in Cleveland from rebelling is the warmth from the Cavs winning an NBA Championship and the Indians' postseason...
Don't look now, but the Bills are playing really well. And they're winning with defense...
The Redskins will not be an easy "out" for the Bengals in London. Guarantee it...
Big, big day in rock and roll coming up Tuesday. The great Chuck Berry will celebrate his 90th birthday!
This is a guy who's responsible, maybe more than anyone, for the advent of what became Rock and Roll. His playing style was certainly a factor. But so too is this: Berry may be responsible for the formation of the Rolling Stones.
In the early '60s, legend has it that Mick Jagger was waiting for a train in London. He was carrying a Chuck Berry album. Another Berry fan was waiting for the same train and noticed the album that Jagger had. The young man walked up to Jagger and began a conversation about Berry and rock and roll. His name was Keith Richards. After that conversation, the two budding musicians agreed to meet again to exchange songwriting ideas. And so began the journey of the greatest rock and roll band of all time.
Up until a few years ago, Berry performed once a month at a St. Louis Club. Fats Domino is now 88. Little Richard is 84 and Dion is a spry 77. But no one from the golden age of rock and roll has lived to see 90. Charles Edward Anderson will reach that mile post tomorrow. You know him as Chuck Berry, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its inaugural class back in 1986.