11 Games To Go: The Bengals To Boom Or Bust?
The Bengals had a chance to move to 3-1 and they where a few minutes away from being 4-1. Instead the Bengals are coming out of the bye week with a dismal 2-3 record featuring back to back losses to the Browns and Buccaneers. These two losses might seal Cincinnati’s fate in repeating as AFC North champs (a title the Bengals have never won in back to back years). Palmer has looked bad, chad has been awful, the offensive line wouldn’t be able pass block if their mother was playing Quarterback, the coaches have called terrible games and made quite a few tactical coaching errors, and the “bend but don’t break” defense has been breaking. However, in Bengal land there is still hope, and hope is alive for a good reason.
The Bengals have one of the toughest schedule’s coming up for the rest of the season including game vs. the Steelers (on Monday night football), the defending champion Saints, The Ravens, The Colts, and the Jets (on Thanksgiving). Once looking at the remaining schedule many Bengals fans have retreated to their homes and have begun constructing tombstones for their beloved Bengals. However, if there is one thing Cincy knows how to do, it is to play underdog and play it well. The bye week came at a great time. The Bengals are slowly getting healthier and they have been getting kicked and buried for 3 weeks now. After a bye week like this, there is only two routes for this Bengal team to take, boom or bust.
Cincy could easily pack in it and play small ball like they have much of 2010, ending with a bad record and another top 10 pick, or they can rebound and claw their way out of the hole they have dug. To me the season is hanging solely on two factors, these being the coaching and o-line.
If Marvin Lewis wants to proves he is more than just a team builder he will need to stop making terrible coaching mistakes and get his team under control. Lewis is in the last year of his deal and if he can’t turn it around he will probably be looking for a job come 2011. Bob Bratkowski has been under heavy fire (and rightfully so) for years now, but as of late his play calling has been much improved. Bob needs to get Palmer in more no huddle situations where his QB calls the plays. He also needs to manage the offensive substitutions better and not be afraid to push the ball when the Bengals enter the red-zone instead of cowering and playing for a field goal.
If the Bengals make the playoffs they will need Benson and the o-line to carry them there. The o-line is the sole key to the rest of the season. The line is one of the worst units in the league in pass protection. At this rate they will have Carson’s head taken off by the end of 2010. If they can give him any sliver of time to throw Palmer will be able to get back on track in the air game. The most shocking part of the o-line this year has been the struggles in the run game. The same crew led the Bengals to the playoffs last year by opening up giant lanes for Cedric Benson to run through. However, this year Benson has run well in spite of terrible run blocking. The line has not finished their blocks and they are letting their men escape and get hit Benson consistently. If the Bengals are to make the playoffs this year they will need to do it on the back of Benson and as of right now he will not have enough in the tank to carry this team down the stretch without help from the big guys upfront
The Bengals are in dire situation Sunday vs. the Falcons and if they lose the season will go from disappointment and slight worry to full-blown panic/rebuilding mode. If Cincy loses Sunday the team might start to spiral downward and players and coaches such as Palmer, Lewis, and Bratkowski will be on the chopping block come 2011.