It’s every man (and woman and child) for himself as Bengals fans race for the exits in the wake of the team’s 37-0 loss to the New York Jets last night. A fickle sports media is already writing Cincinnati off, and many of the team’s fans are following suit.
This is silly. Yes, it was an ugly game — but that’s what happens when one team (in this case, the Bengals) has no interest in winning. The Bengals gained almost nothing with a victory last night, except the “opportunity” to go home and be faced with a short week to prepare for a team, Houston, that had already trounced them once this season. Instead, they gave themselves two weeks to map out a plan for New York, while showing none of their own cards in the process. The Bengals were vanilla on both sides of the ball last night, and had special teamers rotating into the lineup as early as the first quarter. And they completely abandoned the run-first strategy that got them to this point. Clearly, they had no interest in letting New York get in any serious practice against their “A” game. The Jets will see a very different team next weekend.
That’s not to say the Bengals will win. I have no reason to believe that the fundamental problems that have dogged this team all year — red zone struggles, dumb penalties and dropped passes — won’t dog them in the postseason, too. If they weren’t fixed by the end of the regular season, and they weren’t, then we are stuck with this year’s own-worst-enemy-is-us team. But I think next week’s game probably comes down to who scores last.
In personnel news, with DT Pat Sims lost for the rest of the season with a broken arm, and safety Tom Nelson going down with a knee injury as well, Cincinnati has brought back DB Keiwan Ratliff, whom they originally drafted in the second round in 2004. Since getting axed by the club a couple years ago, Ratliff has spent time with Indianapolis and Pittsburgh in a reserve and special teams role.
Chad Ochocinco had an MRI on his knee today, but reports are that there’s no structural damage and he’s expected to play Saturday. Hopefully, this time he can actually hold onto the passes that hit him in the hands.