Random thoughts on a random Thursday...
On the 3-5-1 Bengals
The pathway to a playoff berth is still wide open for the Bengals.
Right, they haven't played well so far this season, but the rest of the AFC North is average at best. Baltimore can't score, Pittsburgh can't stop other teams from scoring and the Browns are....well, the Browns.
The magic number for winning the division remains nine, although I think eight wins might do it.
Look at the Bengals' remaining schedule: They have two against the Ravens, and a game apiece against the Browns and Steelers. That's four games inside a division as weak as any in the NFL. Every one of those games is winnable.
Of course, the rest of the division is thinking the same thing about themselves.
Baltimore has a Herculean task this Sunday in Dallas. Can't see any way they keep up with the Cowboys offense.
Pittsburgh is at Cleveland. The red flag there: Eventually the Browns will beat someone.
The team that is quietly having a very good season is Kansas City. The Chiefs have won their last 15 regular season games, dating back to Oct. 25, 2015. Alex Smith and Andy Reid are the classic "right coach for right quarterback" tandem.
Baseball is right around the corner
Just heard from the Reds that their pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training on Feb. 14, 2017. Only questions are: Who are the starting pitchers and bullpen pitchers and who will be the starting catcher?
There seems to be quantity. The question every year is quality and health -- Devin Mesoraco hasn't played a full season since 2014.
And if this is true, who'll be their starting shortstop?
On college sports
Ohio State vs. Michigan State will be interesting, as always. But I can't help but think Michigan State will be a lot tougher for the Buckeyes than a lot of their fans think.
Read absolutely nothing into college basketball at this point of the season. Connecticut, picked to finish second to Cincinnati in the American Conference (just a vote from being pre-season co-champs with the Bearcats) is 0-2, losing two games to what you'd think were inferior opponents, Wagner and Northeastern.
But inferior doesn't exist anymore in college basketball. The playing court has never been more level. And nothing really starts to matter in college basketball until December...
Soccer is here to stay (for now)
A lot of things went well for FC Cincinnati in its inaugural season. The crowds were the big story. Playing an EPL team was large, but the success of any team -- at any level -- is the bond that its fans have with players.
One of the most popular players this summer was goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt. He was one of the few FC players with MLS experience. Even more so, he was very good. He led the MLS in minutes played and shutouts. He was simply solid.
Thursday, FC Cincinnati announced they've signed Hildebrandt to a "multi-year" contract. With the prospects of the local side elevating to MLS growing, having a solid keeper to build the rest of your team around is paramount.
"Well played," as they like to say in the "the beautiful game."
Oh, what a night!
It's a big day for one of the original Jersey Boys. Songwriter extraordinaire Bob Gaudio turns 74 today. Gaudio was a teen songwriter (he wrote Short Shorts, a big hit back in the day) when he was introduced to Bobby DeVito, a founding member of the Four Seasons.
The introduction was done by another Jersey Boy, Joe Pesci. That began two of the great partnerships: One was songwriting partnership with the late Bob Crewe. Together they penned some great Four Seasons songs.
The other partnership was a lifetime agreement with Frankie Valli that they would be equal partners in whatever success they had with Gaudio writing and Valli singing their songs. Gaudio was an original Four Season, but at the height of the group's success left the stage to concentrate writing songs for the group, and others.
He lives today in Nashville, where I'm sure he's celebrating. Hear now one of his greatest songs, which reached No. 1 in the USA (and stayed No. 1 for five weeks) on this date 54 years ago today on what which, by the way, was Gaudio's 20th birthday. Bob Gaudio, born 74 years ago today in Bergenfield, New Jersey, will be the first Four Season you will see in this video. He's on keyboard for the group that was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.