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Let me get your attention so that you're more inspired to read this game recap – the Cincinnati Bengals probably should've won this game. At a minimum, it wasn't as bad as you think for the Bengals.
I saw the same thing you probably did…half-watching it Sunday. It seemed pretty unwatchable. You probably kept flipping channels even if you were a fan of either of these teams. If you watched all eight 1 PM ET games at once on DirecTV, this was one you probably paid the least attention to. You walked away thinking the Ravens are back with their tough defense, but mostly you think the Bengals are totally incompetent getting shutout in Week 1. We love overreacting to the first thing we see in an NFL season.
I'm not telling you the Bengals are a good football team, far from it. They are one of my three key over/under win-total bets for 2017…the 'under'. I am well pleased with this loss. I'm just telling you, I was mildly shocked on the re-watch – Cincinnati really played toe-to-toe with Baltimore. Which may mean Baltimore is not as good as you think…and that should be a key takeaway as well.
The Bengals had five turnovers – you can't win games like that. A couple of them near the goal line. In another universe, the Bengals would've scored 25+ points in this game. Some turnovers just bad luck while others just bad plays. I was stunned with the amount of time that Cincinnati spent on Baltimore side of the field, and in the red zone but never came away with the score. It was a strange once in a blue moon event.
Baltimore was nothing special in this game. The Bengals kept driving on the Ravens but falling short over and over. The Bengals gifted the Ravens point. Once the Ravens were charitably given a 17–0 lead in the game, they just ran the ball every play and kept letting Cincinnati flail away at trying to score and they never did. I really walked away from this thinking the Ravens are putrid on offense and got lucky on defense here – they have problems again in their secondary. I also walked away thinking Cincinnati is better than the disaster everyone is thinking, but they're still pretty bad and everyone's wildly run off a cliff making jokes about them. I would not be shocked if they destroyed the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football Week 2. Not because the Bengals are secretly great, but they're just not as bad as people are trading them in the stock market of our minds today.
Fantasy player notes…
-- I don't know how Danny Woodhead (3-33-0/3) became the most valuable player in the NFL, but everyone's in a tizzy that an old, often hurt player got hurt a few plays into this game. Wherever could they find another slow running back with good hands to catch dump passes out of the backfield? That such a rare thing. I think there are only maybe 117 running backs floating around the NFL and its fringes that could do the same. Hell, UDFA rookie Tiquan Mizzell could handle the work…and the Ravens cut him in the preseason.
So now that MVP candidate Danny Woodhead is out for a few weeks, we're elevating Javorius Allen (21-71-0, 0-0-0/1) to co-MVP status because he had a lot of carries and is suited more as a receiving back in with Terrance West (19-80-1). I would say, the game circumstances dictated this unusual Buck Allen line. Terrance West was so obviously the lead dog, but when the Ravens got up big and just decided to run the clock -- they started putting Allen into the mix more and more. I'm sure they were thinking they've lost Woodhead for the year, and they need to get Allen more up to speed. So this was almost like an extended practice for Allen. He's going to share touches with Terrance West but make no mistake – Terrance West is the lead running back here.
Allen will probably get more passes, but he's not a very good runner of the ball – if Allen was all that good the Ravens wouldn't have basically iced him inactive most every game last year. They wouldn't have gone out and signed MVP Danny Woodhead. West is the lead running back, and Allen is going to be his co-pilot... A co-pilot on a team that wants to run the ball more than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Don't forget multiple times failed, ancient offensive coordinator Greg Roman is here. The Baltimore Ravens are the Los Angeles Rams of 2016 with better blocking, maybe.
West is serviceable for Fantasy, and Allen's going to be up and down depending on targets. Allen is Shane Vereen in this offense…sometimes 7+ targets in a game, sometimes 2. However, Allen will run a little more than Vereen because this team wants to run 40+ times a game.
-- Because this Ravens offense is a disaster for fantasy, especially passing, I have no interest in Joe Flacco (9-17 for 121, 1 TD/1 INT) at all.
I trade Jeremy Maclin (2-56-1/4) off of having a touchdown among is to catches in this game – that TD catch coming from an illegal pick that sprung him free for a slant pass, long catch and run TD.
Breshad Perriman (1-5-0/4) is dead money in this offense…like he doesn't even exist.
If you think the Ravens are clever enough to turn Michael Campanaro (1-2-0) into temporary Danny Woodhead, you're sadly mistaken. They've had Campanaro for years and don't know what to do with him. He should be one of their best receivers, but they never throw hism a pass.
OK, enough about the Ravens. Let's talk about the Bengals…
-- Joe Mixon (8-9-0, 3-15-0/3) handled the second series of the game, getting a lot of touches back to back, and then oddly disappearing for a while and then re-emerging in random spots and then more steady work very late in the game when it was beyond over.
It won't be long before Jeremy Hill (6-26-0) just starts games, has a carry or two and then is removed from most of the game…maybe coming in for a goal line touch here and there. Mixon's going to be where it's at. Mixon makes this bad O-Line better. I just don't know when that's going to happen. My guess is it won't be but another week or two. The more the Bengals lose the better.
After Week 1, there's a ton of rookie hysteria about Tarik Cohen, Dalvin Cook, Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette…so it all pushes Joe Mixon as not as exciting. It's providing a window to swoop in and trade for Mixon. You will NOT be able to steal him in most cases, but he is available. Kareem Hunt is untouchable today…trades as an RB1/top 15 overall player. Christian McCaffrey is untouchable today. Joe Mixon owners are mostly willing to listen because there are not any positive vibes right now.
When Mixon takes over, I want to have had acquired him. Those that lost David Johnson, you might have other depth to pick from – but Mixon may be the answer of the high-end stud to replace your DJ numbers at a certain point.
-- Andy Dalton (16-31 for 170 yards, 0 TD/4 INT) didn't have his best game, but it wasn't as bad as portrayed. The media hates Andy Dalton, so it doesn't matter what he does it's never good enough. I'm not defending him like he had a good game, he made some terrible throws just like he's done in the preseason but 25+ other QBs make the same terrible decisions on a weekly basis and don't get crushed or it as much as Dalton does.
In another universe, Dalton would've had 300+ yards in 2–3 TDs passing in this game. He had Cody Core (0-0-0/2) 2 yards ahead of coverage sprinting dow field for 40+ yard scoring plays and misconnected with him both times. One just a bad overthrow by Dalton, the other Core should've adjusted and caught but flopped to the ground and missed the pass. That's not even counting all the trips to the red zone that Dalton couldn't connect in the end zone. He got strip sacked and also threw a bad pick as well in the red zone in this game.
If Andy Dalton is so bad, why was he living on the Ravens side of the field and in their red zone? They got there somehow? Not Dalton's finest hour, but not as bad as you think. The Bengals struggle in protection and that's going to force Dalton to look stupid at times. It also may lead to a lot of garbage time rack up of numbers. We'll see. I'm not advocating anything on him besides -- it's not as bad as you think.
-- With Vontaze Burfict out, somehow three linebackers had incredible IDP games. The Cincinnati Bengals home scoring group I think assigns tackles to Bengals' players if they're within 2 yards of a tackled player. Hey, it works for IDP purposes.
Vincent Rey 11 tackles, Nick Vigil 10 tackles, Kevin Minter (10 tackles)…but also note the Ravens ran 42 times as well.
Snap Counts of note…
33 = Allen
27 = West
13 = Campanaro
29 = Gio
22 = Mixon
10 = Hill