So instead let’s have a look at how things are going in the glorious AFC North.
Tag Archives: Andy Dalton
One of Hombre de Acero’s 5 Smoldering Questions yesterday boiled down to “Are you worried about this game?” My short answer was, more or less, yes. Here’s the long one…
Cincinnati has not been particularly good this season. As Mike Tomlin might say, they are what their record says they are. But why? This is a team who quite handily survived the late-season loss of Andy Dalton in 2015. They started a kid who was essentially a rookie instead—A.J. McCarron was their 2014 fourth-round pick, but he saw no game action whatsoever in 2014. Their only loss after the Week 14 game in which Andy Dalton’s thumb received an unfortunate introduction to Stephon Tuitt’s thigh was an overtime loss to the Broncos, in Denver.
By Homer J.
Homer sent a play-by-play, which will appear in italics. I have edited it freely and included commentary when appropriate. He also sent a report card, which will be printed in full. Thanks, Homer!
It’s a bit difficult to do these previews at this point in the season because there isn’t a lot of information upon which to base them. This is even despite the long (and increasingly bitter) history between the Steelers and the Bengals. But let’s jump in and see what there is to find out so far.
I began this series with general musings about how the coaching staff makes decisions in close races. I used the Robert Golden/Sean Davis (and really, to be fair, Shamarko Thomas) competition for starting strong safety as a vehicle. But today I’m going to go into more specifics on some of the contests, since many of them involve guys one has heard little or nothing about.
The difficulty with a series such as this is it may already be out of date by the time it’s published, as two offensive players have been cut and another one signed in the past few days.
I’m still not over Saturday’s game. I don’t think anyone is. The repercussions from this game are going to be felt far into the future, I believe. But the irony for a post such as this is, the majority of the talking points from the game are philosophical and/or procedural.
Should anyone but the head coach be allowed on the field during an injury time-out? Is there a difference between Ryan Shazier’s hit and Vontaze Burfict’s, and should they both have been flagged? For the answers to these and many other such questions, click here.
These and other storylines will doubtless be debated long into the off-season, but for now let’s turn to the comfort of statistics. There may be considerable confusion in the NFL right now as to what constitutes a catch, for instance, or when a play should be blown dead, but there are some things which are black and white. Maybe looking at them will tell us something more about the game than just the drama of it does.
Particularly as Saturday’s opponent is our old frenemy the Cincinnati Bengals, this post will serve both of the AFC North stats article and the opponent preview. After all, there isn’t a lot we don’t know about Cincinnati at this point.
- Bengals +142
- Steelers +104
- Ravens -44
- Browns -154
Week 16 was not a good one for the Black and Gold. The AFC North was a mere .250 this week, and the sole winning team was the one which damaged the Steelers playoff hopes the most—the Ravens. Given the Steelers loss to said Ravens, the best scenario for the Monday night clash between the Bengals and Broncos would have been a Broncos loss, but that was not to be, either. And to no one’s surprise the Browns did not beat the Chiefs, although this had perhaps the smallest effect for good or ill on the Steelers. In other words, it was not a good week, and I don’t think most of us have recovered yet.
The best game of Week 14, bar none, had to have been the Steelers/Bengals clash in Cincinnati. It began well before the opening kickoff with a breach of the DMZ by notable peacemaker Vontaze Burfict and friends, who doubtless just wanted to make sure the Steelers felt welcome to Paul Brown Stadium. Apparently this friendly gesture was misinterpreted, as were further neighborly overtures during the course of the game. It was no wonder head coach Marvin Lewis was described as “glum” in his press conference. It’s very difficult to feel you’ve been misunderstood, and perhaps lost the game as a result.
Or possibly the glumness could be attributed to the loss of his franchise quarterback, through what could either be described as a “football play” or wildly inadvisable, depending on who is doing the describing. Stephon Tuitt is obviously a highly conditioned athlete, with muscles of steel, and Dalton’s thumb was no match for whatever portion of Tuitt’s anatomy it connected with.
But Dalton was not a victim of the peace process gone amok. A great many other Bengals were. In fact, the Bengals are seemingly getting a season’s worth of injuries in the span of a few short weeks after being remarkably healthy. All I can say is, we Steelers fans know all about how frustrating this is.
The end result was satisfactory from the Steelers point of view—a convincing win, with not a lot of collateral damage. The win was absolutely necessary, as the two teams positioned in front of the Steelers in the wild-card race both won on Sunday as well. However, for the first time since the loss to the Seahawks (or really, the earlier loss to the Bengals at Heinz Field) the faint possibility of the division title tantalizingly presents itself. It would still require essentially everything to fall the Steelers’ way, but it is a lot more possible than it was a week ago. All I ask is that it doesn’t come down to a Ryan Succop field goal and correct officiating…
While the Bengals’ remaining schedule is not particularly difficult, it will be interesting to see whether the “starter vs. off-the-bench QB” effect holds for young A.J. McCarron. By this I mean that a young QB can be relatively successful coming off the bench and playing a defense who has absolutely no idea what he is like. But a game’s worth of tape gives the next defense something to work with, and a week to prepare.
As for the Ravens and Browns, they were .500. The Ravens are now down to their third quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, and he was ineffective against the Seahawks, or so the final score of 35-6 would indicate. On the other hand, the Johnny Manziel-led Browns slapped 24 points on the 49ers. They are scarcely alone, though. The 49ers have given up an average of close to 23 points per game, while scoring an average of just over 14 themselves.
For what it’s worth, if the season ended today the Browns would have a top-3 pick (depending on the esoteric formulas used to divide them from the Titans and Chargers, the other 3-10 teams) and the Ravens would pick somewhere between № 4 and № 7, again depending on the way the NFL weights the relative claims of the 4-9 Lions, 49ers, Cowboys and Ravens. The Bengals would pick at № 28 or 29, the Steelers somewhere between № 22 and № 26. Naturally, I’m hoping the Steelers pick at № 32, but there’s a lot of football left.
As I listened to Mike Tomlin extol the virtues of the upcoming opponent, something he does every week, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Although he brought out a few vintage Tomlinisms, calling Mohamed Sanu a “Swiss Army Knife” and referring to Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson’s “thoughtfully non-rhythmic” game plans, I realized there could scarcely help but be a letdown this week. After all, Tomlin uttered a phrase which may live on for many years when he referred to running back Frank Gore as “one of the legendary ball toters of this generation.” It’s pretty difficult to top that.
But Antonio Brown tried, in his own special way, which garnered him this response from Benstonium:
To return to the legendary ball toter, if I may be allowed to look back for another moment, the Steelers D mostly stopped Gore himself. Although he’s a month younger than our own DeAngelo Williams, he looked considerably slower, especially after Cameron Heyward managed to come from ten feet back in the backfield and chase him down after several missed tackles doubtless had Gore dreaming of a touchdown.
Of course, Heyward also outran the Steelers defensive backs. It’s hard to say whether this should make us more impressed with Heyward or more depressed about our secondary. Being an optimist, I’m going for option one. Read more