900 Words on why the Bengals will likely lose this week
On Saturday, January 5th, 2013 at 4:30, The Cincinnati Bengals will return to the scene of the crime. Last year, this very same week, The Houston Texans, with backup quarterback T. J. Yates humiliated the Bengals, 31-10.
This year, things are a little bit different. The Texans are healthier, at least offensively, but have also been playing cold, losing thee of four. The Bengals, meanwhile, managed to win games against teams over .500, which they failed to do in 2011, and have won seven of their last eight games. Momentum is a powerful force in the NFL, and for that reason alone, the Bengals have a chance in this game.
However, many fans and analysts are confusing momentum with speed. Sure Houston has lost three of four. They just played four consecutive games against playoff teams. If they had gone 2-2, this would be a non-issue. (And they wouldn’t be playing this week, but that is neither here nor there.) Bengals, meanwhile, played only one playoff team in eight weeks, and that’s if you count The Raven’s 2nd and 3rd stringers as a playoff team. Four victories against the non-Denver AFC West teams, and Philadelphia, who are a combined 17-47, the a fore mentioned win over the B-Team Ravens, topping the Giants in the middle of a 2-5 stretch, and The Steelers in the middle of a 1-5 stretch. Not only did Cincinnati have the lowest Strength of Schedule in the AFC (2nd overall behind The Falcons) but their three best victories (Including RGIIIs first ever home game) were when those teams were slumping. Give credit where it is due. The Bengals know how to take advantage of a team when they are down, which The Texans certainly have been.
It’s not just the competition that has caused this illusion about the Bengals. Their offense has been atrocious. They have not had a scoring drive over 45 yards in three games. The defense has played great, (clearly, they won all 3 games) but this means they are relying on the turnover to score points. Houston only turned the ball over 17 times all season.
Comparing team offenses position by position shows another huge mountain for The Bengals to climb. Schaub is much better than Dalton (See below). There aren’t many receivers in the league better than A. J. Green, but Andre Johnson is one of them. There aren’t many running backs better than Arian Foster, and in fact, Houston’s #1 rushed for more yards than Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis had combined rushing and receiving. And to simplify the disparity, Houston is the 3rd best overall offense statistically out of the 12 teams that made the playoffs, Cincinnati is 12th. Comparing the Defenses is more difficult as both teams are very similar on that side of the ball. Defense is a push.
Quarterback is undoubtedly the most important position in the NFL. Few teams even make the playoffs with subpar passers. The 2000 Ravens were the last team to win the Super Bowl with a lame duck QB. Schaub is better than Dalton, hands down. Now that Andy Murray (tennis player) has proven he can win big games, Dalton takes over the sports nickname, “Small Game Andy.” Even though the Bengals won the biggest game of the regular season, week 16 against The Steelers, (had they lost, they would not have made the playoffs) Dalton threw for 0 TDs and 2 INTs. In the three biggest games of the year (Game 1 at Baltimore, and the previous game against Pittsburgh) he only threw for 1 TD, and 4 INTs. In a home game against Pittsburgh, he threw for only 105 yards on 28 attempts. That’s less than 4 yards per attempt. Not even cohort, Jake Locker displayed that level of futility at any point this season. And yet, with good showings against Washington (30th in pass defense) and New York Giants (28th in pass defense) Dalton has shown improvement this year. Last year, he was embarrassed by every team he faced with a winning record. Schaub, on the other hand, has struggled in some big games, but has shown up to play more often than not. His biggest game this year was against Denver (3rd in pass defense) when he threw for 290 yards and 4 TDs in a winning effort.
The motivation edge also goes to The Texans. They were the top team in the AFC last year until the Schaub injury. They were the top team in the AFC this year until the mini-collapse. They’ve got a lot to prove. If they want to march back into Gillette stadium and redeem themselves next week, they will first have to dispose of The Bengals this week. Meanwhile, The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in 22 years. They are just happy to be here. They played (and won) their Super Bowl in week 16. Season goals accomplished. They might win, and they will certainly try to do so, but this season has already been a success. Satisfied teams seldom win in the playoffs.
Could The Bengals win? Certainly. While they are not great in any aspect of the game, they also don’t have any glaring weaknesses. If the turnover battle happens to go in their favor, they could win. If it does not, fans will likely be treated to another 31-10 blowout victory for The Texans. Or something close to it.