CINCINNATI -- It might be a good idea for the Bengals to beat the Giants tonight. A win tonight over the Giants would give the Bengals a leg up on the Steelers. And, despite what happened to the Steelers Sunday, they're still the team to beat in the AFC North
Here's why I think the Bengals will win tonight: The Giants are a one trick pony. They've got Odell Beckham, Jr., and...
Right. Not much else.
Yes, the Giants are the best team in the NFL in defending the red zone. But they're 25th in the league in defending the pass. They're ninth in the league defending the run. That's because everybody throws on the Giants defense.
It doesn't matter of Janoris Jenkins or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie line up against A.J. Green; Green eats them up. It doesn't matter if Andre Adams or Landon Collins slides over for safety help -- Green eats them up, too.
Look, the Giants have won five of their first eight games. They're riding a three game winning streak. They're also one of four teams in the the NFL this season with a negative point differential. They play tight games -- none of their first eight games have been decided by more than seven points.
But there's only one team in the NFL with a worse time of possession. And that's bad news facing a grind-it-out on offense like the Bengals.
The Giants don't sack anyone. They have eleven sacks this season, fewest in the league. The Bengals line, despite allowing 25 sacks in eight games, may get a break with that tonight.
The Giants don't let Eli Manning get dusted much. Their 4th in the league in fewest sacks allowed. They've only given up eleven of those.
But their best lineman -- tackle Justin Pugh -- is out. Advantage Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins?
And then, there's this: The Giants have the most anemic rushing offense in years. They average just over 68 yards per game. I think they run to avoid getting bored by throwing the ball all the time.
Their leading rusher is Rashad Jennings, who has a total of 168 yards this season. For perspective, Jeremy Hill rushed for 168 yards in just one game this season.
And when you factor in that Manning is in the bottom third of the NFL in completion percentage, yards per throw and passing rating, it's amazing the Giants are 5-3.
All those numbers aside, when the proverbial fur starts to fly tonight, this is a pivotal game for the Bengals. They have to thread the needle in their final eight games. Minimum number of wins is six; they have to get to nine on the season.
A wild card playoff berth is unlikely. With each passing week, it appears the AFC West will have both wild card teams. The Bengals will have to win their division to make the post-season.
The Steelers? Their secondary is horrific. I call it a "car full of clowns." It's beyond comprehension how it could commit two face mask penalties in the final minute of Sunday's game. (They got caught only once, but replay clearly showed two.)
The Steelers have fallen to 4-5. But, their remaining schedule is the easiest of all the other teams in the AFC North. Cleveland is next. Then, they go to Indianapolis, Buffalo and Cincinnati with home games against the Giants, Ravens and Browns. Combined record of their remaining opponents: 21-30-1. They need five wins in their final seven games to get to nine.
And then, there's Baltimore. At 5-4, the Ravens lead the North. And they may have the best defense in the division. For the Ravens to get to nine wins, they'll have to go 4-3 in their final seven games. But look at their schedule -- they have to go to Dallas this coming Sunday. (Good luck with that.) And on the horizon are road games at New England, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Nine wins gets you the AFC North title this year. But if the magic number is eight and the Bengals get there, who would have thought that tie with the Redskins would actually work in their favor?
Of all the games Sunday, the Chiefs comeback on the Panthers was by far the most impressive. Chiefs, Raiders and Broncos all make the playoffs...maybe.
The Bills had the weekend off. They play in Cincinnati next Sunday.
Early, red flag warning about the Fighting Ryans: In the last six games, the Bills have averaged over 28 points per game AND have rushed for an average of 178 yards per game AND are converted 44 percent of their third down situations.
But their defense is not good.
So Long Tommy?
Not sure what the University of Cincinnati will eventually wind up doing with Tommy Tuberville after this season. Smart money says he gets a reduced buy out and is gone. Saturday's game at Central Florida was one of the worst performances by a college offense I've seen in a long, long time.
UC has become a team of musical quarterbacks. When you don't have a clear cut, number one quarterback, you don't have an offense -- truism on any level of football.
No question, Ohio State will be one of the top four teams in the College Football Playoff poll that will be released Tuesday night. There's a real chance Ohio State will make the college playoffs while missing the Big 10 Championship game. If Penn State beats Michigan State and Rutgers, it's in and Ohio State, even if it beats Michigan, is out. But remember, no poll means anything until the final poll, the week after Thanksgiving.
One of the best stories of this college football season is being written in Oxford, Ohio. The RedHawks have won five in a row after dropping their first six games. The turnaround is directly tied to quarterback Gus Ragland, who missed the early part of this season recovering from knee surgery.
Ragland, the former Moeller quarterback, has thrown 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in the five games he's started -- all wins. He's also completed over 60 percent of his throws in three of those wins. If the RedHawks beat Ball State in their season finale, in Oxford next Tuesday night, they'll have six wins and will become bowl eligible. If a bowl game has the possibility of choosing the RedHawks, they'd be making a serious mistake not choosing that team.
Rest easy, Leon
A music legend left this early Saturday night. In Nashville, the great Leon Russell died in his sleep. Russell was a Tulsa boy who never forgot his hometown. He played some of the clubs in that town when he was in high school. He was a terrific keyboard player. After moving to LA, he found work first with the famed studio group The Wrecking Crew and played on some very big hits. You can hear his work on Glenn Campbell's "Gentle On My Mind" and in Gary Lewis and the Playboys' "This Diamond Ring." Later, he'd write and appear with Joe Cocker.
Leon Russell left many gifts, including this one, from 45 years ago. It's a song that's been covered by dozens of other artists -- but the original is a masterpiece.
Leon Russell was 74. And, at least to me, that is far too young.