And So It Begins


Though the first games have yet to be played, the 2009 NFL season is underway as teams commence game planning and film work ahead of week 1. For the Cincinnati Bengals, the target is the Denver Broncos, whose offseason has been a rolling disaster. Teflon Mike has been replaced by Bill Belichick disciple and wanna-be (right down to the hoodie and torn sleeves) Josh “the second coming of Dave Shula” McDaniels. Starting QB Jay Cutler whined his way out of town and was replaced by Kyle Orton. Yes, on purpose. WR Brandon Marshall has been doing his best Ocho Cinco impersonation and got sent home for the last part of preseason as a result. First-round pick RB Knowshon Moreno sprained an MCL. Oh, and during the preseason, Orton tore up a finger and backup QB Chris Simms sprained an ankle, so there’s an outside chance that Denver’s week 1 starter could be third-string QB Tom Brandstater.

(Update: and the beat goes on for Denver fans. Second-round pick Richard Quinn was arrested on a domestic violence charge today.)

Forecasts from Bronco-watchers are gloomy. Real GM Football predicts a 4-12 finish. SI’s Peter King is slightly more optimistic at 5-11. The Cryptkeeper says 3-13.

Given all this, the Bengals might be expected to feast next weekend at Paul Brown Stadium, but I can’t shake the feeling that this game is far from a “gimme.” Most of my concern revolves around Carson Palmer and a rebuilt offense that haven’t had a lot of time together. Rust that was supposed to have been shaken off in the preseason wasn’t, and I believe that will lead to offensive miscues — look for bad throws, snap/handoff problems, and o-line penalties — in the first couple weeks as Palmer and the offense work their way into sync.

The good news is that, for the last few years, the defense has shown up on opening day. After giving up a combined 61 points in week 1 during Marvin Lewis’ first two years, the Bengals have allowed a total of 60 points on opening day over the last four seasons. Cincinnati is 3-1 over that span, the only loss being last year’s 17-10 defeat by Baltimore.

My bet is that opening day at PBS will be a sloppy, low-scoring affair that will turn on which team makes fewer mistakes. In the end, the Bengals escape with a win, but do little to make anyone think they are bound for the playoffs.