Bengals Week 5: Still Alive In The AFC North Race

Sep 29, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 22-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 22-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

After a mini-bye, the Bengals are back to work. The AFC North has gotten tighter. With the return of key players, it’s time to take control of the division.

Despite the horror of starting sub .500 for the first time in years, the Bengals are still alive. The AFC North race is still close and the fat lady hasn’t walked on stage yet. After dismantling the Dolphins, Cincinnati was able to keep pace with their division rivals and stay within one game of first place.

Week 4 was all about getting help from other teams. Sitting at 2-2, the Bengals needed the football gods to rain down their blessings. It happened, in two of the games. But, no such luck at Heinz Field. Going into a Week 5 battle with the Cowboys, the Bengals aren’t in bad shape. Yet, a three-way tie for first would have made things more interesting. Even Better? The Bengals in sole possession of the top spot.  

Getting Vontaze Burfict back on the field was huge. His return to the defense was felt immediately. Burfict was involved in 76% of the snaps for the D. Like the trooper he is, Burfict said he could have played more. But, the bottom line was the win. The Bengals will need him fresh for the AFC North stretch run.

Tyler Eifert should be a full go for Dem Boyz. But, don’t expect a lot. Coaches are going to move him along slowly. As good as Eifert is, he’s going to need time to get back to full strength. Marvin Lewis isn’t going to take any chances with his star tight end. Having him back will bring joy to Mudville, er, Cincinnati. Bengals fans have been dreaming of his return.

The Browns 

What in the Wide World of Sports is goin’ on with Cleveland? It seems like Hue Jackson may have carried the Bengals’ curse to the Browns. We all thought it would be a tough first year under Hue but this has gotten ridiculous. They seem to be pulling defeat from the jaws of victory.

Actually, the Browns (0-4) played a great game. They went into the lockers at halftime tied at 17-17. In the second half, Cleveland had multiple turnovers that could have iced the game. Instead, it looked like a comedy of errors that eventually cost them a win. A questionable call by the refs sealed the loss. Shades of Bengals luck.

The Brownies dropped to 0-4 and quite possibly locked up the basement…again. But, the year is young. It’s early enough to pull things together and go at least 7-9. Thankfully, the Bengals run defense looked good against the Phins. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. looked good. Cincinnati may have a battle royal in Week 7.

The Steelers 

Big Ben and the Stilluhs turned things around. What more can be said? Pittsburgh (3-1) dominated the Chiefs and looked like the preseason favorites. After getting destroyed by the Philadelphia Eagles and Carson Wentz, the defense snapped back.

Le’Veon Bell returned to action and showed why he’s one of the best in the league. If the Bengals had trouble with DeAngelo Williams, Bell may be a thorn in their side too. But, the next showdown will be in the friendly confines of Paul Brown Stadium.

Pittsburgh has a number of walking wounded on defense. But, the D kept rolling along. Honestly, either KC is that bad or the Stilluhs are beasts. That made my stomach turn.

The Ravens 

Finally, Baltimore showed some chinks in the armor. The Ravens (3-1) secondary was lit up by Derek Carr. Numbers can be misleading. Baltimore held Carr held to under 200 yards passing. But, he burned the Baltimore defense for four TDs.

Joe Flacco was once again machine-like and efficient. Yet, it wasn’t enough. The Oakland Raiders seem to have found the confidence they lacked last season. Could they be…a playoff team?

Next: Bengals vs Dem Boyz

Terrance West shredded the Raiders for 113 yards on the ground. Can you see the pattern? The Bengals running game must get into gear…immediately. Cincinnati is still in the race. But, it may be closer than most thought it would.