Sunday, September 26, 2010

Concerned (Carson) and Encouraged (U.C.)

I'm concerned about the Bengals offense, specifically the passing offense, and perhaps more specifically, Carson Palmer.  I watched Sunday as Philip Rivers and Kyle Orton each threw for over 450 yards.  Heck, Ryan Fitzpatrick went 20 for 28 passing for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns against the New England Patriots.  I know, Carson had a big day throwing against New England too, but that was after the matter had been decided.  Fitzpatrick's Buffalo Bills didn't face a dire situation until late in the fourth quarter.  But statistics have nothing to do with my concern.  It's what I see that has me concerned.  I see no sure passes other than short ones.  Intermediate passes are an adventure, and the longer ones, forget it.  The Bengals had two passing plays over 20 yards on Sunday, none over 30.  I've heard enough about not being on the same page.  I've heard plenty on the pass protection too.  The protection could be better, but I'm not seeing that as the root cause.  I'm seeing passes not delivered with the same accuracy as Palmer used to display.  It didn't catch up to the Bengals on Sunday.  But it will.  Fortunately for Cincinnati, Carolina was awful.  Just as fortunate, Palmer gets another week to shake this slump, or whatever it is, and show he can still get it done at a high level.

U.C. still has a chance to shake things up.  The Big East title is up for grabs and the Bearcats were playing at a much higher level Saturday night against Oklahoma.  If they can bottle that up and use it in the Big East, U.C. has a chance.  They do have West Virginia on the road, and the Mountaineers appear to be the class of the league.  There's no shame in losing by 6 points at LSU on a Saturday night.

Just as big for U.C. was a crowd of over 58,000 for the game Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium.  Maybe this town can support the Bengals and big-time college football after all.  One or two games a year at PBS with a big time opponent and a big crowd would be a nice shot in the arm for the Bearcats program.  It would be a bigger boost if they get a sweet deal on the stadium.  I'm not sure what the precise deal is, but a publicly funded stadium should benefit as many teams as possible.  Not just one.  And not just one guaranteed to make a profit year in and year out because of a billion dollar television contract with the NFL.  U.C. needs to have a fighting chance to feed the beast that is big-time college football, and big-time college athletics.  Saturday night was good for the city, good for downtown businesses, good for the county, and good for the fans.  It should also be good for the people putting on the show.

What a bummer if the Reds clinch on an off day.  They would get the benefit of an extra day to set things up for the playoffs.  But don't you want to win Tuesday night and break out the champagne in the home clubhouse with dirty uniforms?  That's the way to celebrate in baseball.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reds Ready To Celebrate, Bengals Ready To Win.

It's just a matter of a few days before the Reds celebrate their first division title since 1995.  In some ways you wonder "who are these guys?", especially in terms of offense.  When the season began I think most of us agreed the Reds had a shot to hang around because of the pitching.  The pitching overall has been okay.  But the hitting has been the best in the league.  The Reds lead the N.L. in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, hits, total bases, and slugging percentage.  Seriously, who saw that coming?  Meanwhile, the pitching lags down the list in almost every category.  But this should give Reds fans real hope that there could be more division titles coming soon.  When the young starting pitching kicks it in they'll be a tough team with a fairly young core.  And yes, I said when the pitching kicks in, not if.  I believe Cueto, Volquez, Chapman, Leake, Wood, and Bailey give the Reds some nice options to make big things happen.

The Bengals haven't won a road game since last November.  More than likely that's just one of those weird things that happens in sports.  I'm sure Marvin Lewis told his players to not even think about it, that it's a non-issue.  And it is, unless the Bengals fail to get it done in Carolina Sunday.  I think the Bengals win this game.  Stop the running attack of Williams and Stewart and it's all downhill for the first road win after five straight losses away from home.

U.C. head coach Butch Jones knew what he was getting into.  But I think even Butch is a little more than surprised at the lack of depth on this Bearcats team.  It has left Jones with few options to replace guys who aren't getting it done.  But there is a lack of execution that might be the biggest culprit here.  Big plays have been available, but mistakes didn't allow U.C. to take advantage.  That's something Butch has to fix.  The good news, he knows it and isn't running away from it.  Neither are the players.  The better news, the schedule lightens up a little after Oklahoma this weekend.  After the Miami Redhawks, it's time for Big East play.  And the Big East is bad this season.  After years of national pundits saying it, this year they have it right.  I've defended the conference in the past, and with good reason.  While there were no teams to match the top five teams in the country, there were only one or two dawgs in years past.  Now there appear to be a bunch, maybe all but West Virginia.  I love the Big East, but I can't defend its' lack of football muscle this season.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We Waited 8 Months For This?

This truly is one of those games where the final score didn't indicate the can of whoopbutt that was sprayed on the Bengals Sunday.  When you find yourself down 31-3 in an NFL game, you clearly weren't ready to compete.  How does that happen after 8 months of "the playoff loss left us with a bad taste in our mouths", or "we can't wait to get started and build on what we accomplished last season"?  I really don't believe the Bengals are as bad as we saw in the first half at New England, but when the team showed a pulse in the third quarter and cut the lead to 14, what happened?  The Patriots went on a 14 play, 81 yard touchdown drive that took almost 8 minutes off the clock.  That effectively ended the game.  The defense could not stop New England when it mattered.  Bottom line, end of story.  So whether the offense woke up in the second half or not, whether the Bengals allowed the two non-conventional touchdowns or not, I'm hard pressed to make myself believe the Bengals could have done much to slow down the Patriots.  One game is not enough to convince this team is horrible, but defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has a big week of work ahead of him.

Things to see for next week:
The uptempo offense from the start.  Isn't that the only time the offense looked good in the preseason, so why the heck did it take most of the first half to get it going in new England? 

Everybody on the field until the first half is over.  So T.O. needed to be looked at and Chad needed an I.V.  So what happens if the Bengals pick off a pass in the New England territory, of there's a fumble?  If I'm the Bengals, I don't make that move, or allow that move, in the future.

More pressure on the opposing quarterback.  If the Bengals don't make that happen, every qb they face will be completing 71 percent of their passes.  No sacks and a couple of hurries is not going to scare anyone on the schedule.

If I'm Dusty, and we're going to the 9th with a one run lead, I'm making sure someone is heated up and ready to go in case Coco doesn't have it.  No way do I send him out there without a backup plan in case runners reach base.  I would hope to make it Rhodes or Chapman.  Please?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Panic In Cincy!

What, me worry?  I feel like Alfred E. Newman of Mad magazine because I've yet to hit the panic button on this team.  But I am concerned.  A little concerned.  I would be close to panic-mode if the Cardinals had proven over the past couple of months they could beat someone besides the Reds.  Bronson Arroyo Wednesday night, very disappointing.  Aaron Harang on Monday, ouch!  The Reds veteran pitchers had a chance to help the Reds get the train back on the tracks and they failed.  But thanks to the Cardinals, and the Brewers, the Reds still own a 6 game lead over the Cardinals.  

I'm not sure how smart it is for the Reds to try and sneak by with three healthy outfielders, all of them right-handed sticks.  HELLO!  YOUR TEAM HAS A CHANCE TO NAIL DOWN THE DIVISION TITLE!  I know there's trouble with guys on the 40-man rosters, but take a look at the 40-man take a look at the 40-man and see if there isn't a player or two you might sacrifice to make a move.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

All Good In St. Lou, Bengals Cuts Made Sense, But What Happened In Fresno?

That performance by U.C.'s offensive line was not good.  I'm being kind here, I know.  When the Bearcats had problems running the ball and Collaros was running around trying to avoid becoming a character in the next Ichabod Crane story, I had a sick feeling.  I had a feeling that 14-0 lead might be fool's gold.  It was just too bad to see the Bearcats blink, blink again, then fold like a lawn chair in the face of adversity.  It's only game one, so that is good news.  I didn't expect UC to go undefeated again.  The bad news is the performance of the offense line.  Oh, I already mentioned that.  So let's say injuries are the bad news.  I hope none are serious, but the Bearcats lost a few fillings in that game.

The Bengals actually made some cuts that made sense.  I was surprised about Chase Coffman, but if it ain't workin', it ain't working.  If he clears waivers and comes back on the practice squad, fine. If not, the Bengals have Jermaine Gresham.  The only thing that bothered me in the least is thinking Daniel Coats will be the tight end/fullback.  The Bengals went down that road last year and it wasn't pretty.  But Coats is a prince of a human being and we're hoping this time it works like a charm.  Plus, when healthy, Nugent rocks like Ted!  Love that guy as the kicker!

By the way, if the Bengals are really serious about winning this year, why shouldn't they go for T.J. Houshmandzadeh?  The guess here is that T.J. will want better money than he'll get in Cincinnati.  But really, if the Bengals think they are close, they should bring him back to make a living in the slot.  One year, go for it!  There is a camp out there that thinks T.J. was a bit of a thorn, but I didn't see it.  Yes, I'm excited about Jordan Shipley's potential, but will T.J. help the Bengals this season or hurt them?  I think he helps.

The Redlegs.  Up 8 games with 27 to go.  Ok, I'll jinx it.  It's going to be tough to blow that kind of lead.  Especially with the Reds looking at 12 games against Houston and Milwaukee in the last 15 on the schedule.  They are now 14-3 against the Astros and Brewers this season.  In other words, THEY OWN THEM.  I felt the Cardinals had to sweep to have a decent chance.  Guess what?  The Cardinals didn't sweep.

It's out of control seeing Aroldis Chapman doing his thing.  Facing Albert Pujols in the 8th inning with a runner on first Saturday was great.  Even better, Albert getting a splinter of his bat on the ball,  just enough to get it to Rolen to start an inning-ending double play.  I was at the game Wednesday night when Chapman came in to pitch.  I'm not sure I've seen more electricity in a 42,000 seat stadium with only 16,000 in attendance.  The Reds have to wonder if he might be a better reliever in the long run.  However, if he consistently throws strikes, then his pitch count should be manageable.  The Redlegs should give him a shot as a starter next year.  Would you make Secretariat run Quarter Horse races? (I know, Secretariat was a thoroughbred and wouldn't be eligible, but you get the drift, wise guy.)