Cincinnati Bengals: Stripe Hype’s Editors’ Corner
Sep 21, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals fans against the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 33-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
The Cincinnati Bengals had the week off, but that didn’t stop Stripe Hype from answering some questions about where we think the Bengals stand four weeks into the season.
The week four bye has come and gone for the Cincinnati Bengals. What has been the largest contribution to their success thus far?
David Petrocelli: Their depth, which should be obvious at this point. The Bengals have been without starting wide receiver Marvin Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert for nearly the entire season while also being without A.J. Green for the Falcons game. Hue Jackson has kept this offense moving forward without this plethora of weapons. The offensive line also absorbed the loss of Kevin Zeitler without missing a beat. They handled the dangerous Jurrell Casey, seemingly with ease, during his absence.
The defense has been without Vontaze Burfict for much of the season and Geno Atkins has been working his way into game shape after missing the entirety of the preseason due to off-season rehabilitation. Paul Guenther’s defense has been stout anyway. It’s a real tribute to this team’s depth.
Matthew Willson: I agree with David that depth is a huge part of where this team is today. They have had key losses, like many teams, but the next guy in line has stepped up and filled their shoes. I think this team will only get better as it gets healthier. Vontaze Burfict will return this week against the Patriots and Marvin Jones is closer than ever to returning. This should be the team to beat in the AFC.
How will the early bye week help or hurt the Bengals going forward?
DP: I can’t see how it’ll hurt. (See previous answer). This team getting healthy only makes them better and more diverse strategically. They’ll also be able to deal with the inevitable injuries that are to come (knock on wood, they don’t).
The Bengals will face their toughest test thus far in Week Five when they meet the Patriots in Foxborough. The Patriots are nearly unbeatable at home, but looked vulnerable against the Raiders in Week Three while playing at Foxoborough; not to mention getting handled by the Chiefs in Week Four in Kansas City. Having a healthier squad will only increase the possibility that they’ll steal a victory in the Patriots’ vaunted stadium.
MW: The bye week will help them get healthy and get rested for a very tough task ahead. The next three weeks are going to be proof to the Bengals’ fan base and the NFL that this team is the real deal. The Bengals have the Patriots in Foxborough this week, the Panthers at home, and the Colts in Indianapolis. Those are three games that should be on every fans’ “must watch list.”
The only way this will hurt is later in the season when rest could be important. They finish this season with Pittsburgh at home, Cleveland on the road, Denver at home, and Pittsburgh on the road. That may take a toll on this team, but the strength and depth they have shown early may prove to be the key to a postseason run.
Who is the Bengals’ most valuable player to this point? Who is the biggest surprise?
DP: I’d like to cheat here and say their coordinators. Paul Guenther has taken over this defense and they haven’t missed a beat while Hue Jackson has kept this offense rolling despite all its injuries. But sticking with the question, I’d say Giovani Bernard in a close race. He’s been huge for this offense and helped negate the loss of A.J. Green versus the Falcons. His dynamic play aids Andy Dalton in tough moments and keeps defenses guessing. I will say though Rex Burkhead’s return can’t come sooner. Bernard is on pace for nearly 300 carries, I’d like to see that number decreased while not overloading rookie Jeremy Hill who is acclimating to the NFL schedule; a hard thing to do for all rookies.
As for the biggest surprise, I’m cheating again somewhat when I say Terence Newman. He’s gotten really no press, so here’s my moment to give some. Thus far this season, he’s covered a few talented receivers and has accumulated 20 tackles (13 solo), five PDs, and, if he doesn’t drop the easy interception against the Titans, he would’ve had a pick six. Newman has quietly had an incredible start to the season while helping account for Darqueze Dennard’s absence from the Ravens game. He’s 36 and in the final year of his contract. Is it too early to try to convince him to sign on for another year?
MW: I am not going to cheat, well sort of, and I am going to say that this person has been one in the same so far this season. Although he had minor hiccup in Week Three, Andy Dalton has been in control of this offense early on this season. He has read defenses well and hooked up with A.J. Green on a few big plays; one of which proved to be the difference in the Ravens game. He has had good clock management skills and has settled into Hue Jackson’s offense seamlessly.