This was an embarrassment from the kickoff. News hit about 48 hours earlier that Marvin Lewis was going to leave at the end of the season and that kinda made the Bengals players, who had little to play for, even more disinterested. The 34-7 final didn’t reflect how bad the beating was here.
Cincinnati is a mediocre team, when at full strength, and currently terrible due to a rash of defensive injuries. A losing season has been secured, as has my #2 under/under bet of the year (May 2017)…the Bengals ‘under’ 8.0-8.5 wins. Thank you for the parting gift, Marvin.
If forced, I would have bet against the Vikings hitting 8.0-8.5 wins…and I would have lost. The Vikings continue their push for the claim of ‘best team in the NFL’. No one team in the NFL is head and shoulders above any other this season and every top team has its flaws. I think eight teams can legit win the Super Bowl -- 3 from the AFC (NE, PIT, JAX), and 5 from the NFC (MIN, CAR, LAR, NO, DAL…not PHI). I’d ween that down to NE-JAX vs. MIN-LAR-CAR in my world. If I had to pick today, I’d go JAX-LAR/MIN, probably LAR because their defense is starting click with Wade Phillips, but the Greg Zuerlein loss is huge.
Can you imagine a Jacksonville vs. Rams Super Bowl? Talk about low ratings.
Talk about what a difference a coaching change makes in one season. You wonder why the NFL churns head coaches every 2-3 years…this is why. Hoping for lightning in a bottle to ‘change the culture’.
The Vikings are 11-3 and likely to win out (has GB-CHI left on the schedule), so they will be 13-3 and cannot catch Philly for the #1 seed unless the Eagles lose both their final games. Possible the Eagles lose two, but not likely. Week 17 will only be meaningful for the Vikings if the Panthers stay one game back of Minnesota. Of the teams a game behind Minnesota for the #2 seed, the Vikings have beaten LAR-NO but lost to CAR. They need Carolina to go away. The Panthers play Tampa Bay Week 16 so I’m guessing the Vikings will need to play Week 17 as a must win.
Also, stay tuned at the very end of this piece for something I’m going to push that is critical for 2018 fantasy planning, week-to-week 2018 planning, and future over/under win total bets on the Bengals, etc. The Bengals 2018, with a change at head coach, could be that dud team from the year prior that makes a wild Super Bowl run under a new coach/sheriff – and watching one player here on this tape, and for the last few weeks, and knowing him from prior scouting is what clicked on a lightbulb. We’ll discuss that one player last, below.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Not a ton to talk about here among offensive players because this was such a textbook beating of a bad, disinterested team…but I want to start by looking ahead at these QBs for Week 17…for those needing to know (for those with two-week title game events).
Case Keenum (20-23 for 236 yards, 2 TDs/0 INTs) probably hasn’t had this easy of a time playing QB since grade school. 148 of his 236 yards passing were dump passes and short crossing catches and runs by running backs. Thielen-Diggs combined for just 60 receiving yards total.
If Week 17 is meaningless, I suspect Keenum would play a series or two and then yield to Teddy Bridgewater (0-2, 0 TD/1 INT) for the rest of the game. Because the Vikings would be in line for a BYE, they probably wouldn’t want Keenum off for three weeks, so he's playing some…possibly the whole game.
It’s going to be hard to say what Minnesota does because even if they preannounce Keenum playing in a meaningless Week 17 game, he may not play very long.
On the other side, Andy Dalton (11-22 for 113 yards, 0 TD/2 INTs) continuing to start is silly…but I also think the Bengals are trying to hide A.J. McCarron…and it’s not to ‘not let people see how good he might be’ but to make sure no one realizes how bad he might be. Working behind this O-Line and dead team wouldn’t help his trade value in the offseason. Cincy’s best play on McCarron is propping up his value…it would not be much of a showcase game working with this cratering team.
McCarron might play Week 17, but I don’t think you want any part of that with the way this team’s mood and injury report has gone.
-- Latavius Murray (20-76-1, 1-28-0/1) and Jerick McKinnon (9-24-0, 7-114-0/8) had their way with the Bengals because Cincy is missing half+ of their starting back seven, plus the Bengals don’t care anymore. This would be good news for the Week 16 opponent Detroit…if they had a running game. I’d guess Theo Riddick might have an RB1 push possible this week.
-- Gio Bernard (14-30-1, 3-13-0/5) laid an egg here. Before you get too excited about Joe Mixon returning…the Bengals put a starting OL on IR this week and you have to wonder if Marvin Lewis goes out tipping his cap to Gio Bernard with more work…or pushes Mixon some more.
-- Vikings 2nd-year safety Jayron Kearse (4 tackles) caught my attention on defense and special teams…he has such freakishly long arms like a certain relative of his. He moves well and has that big reach.
-- OK, the reason to get excited about the Bengals in 2018…assuming a new head coach...that knows what they’re doing…which is a big IF…
Andy Dalton is a capable QB.
A.J. Green is a top NFL WR.
Joe Mixon is a stud RB prospect.
The defensive front seven is not bad at all when healthy.
The two areas where the Bengals have been a real let down in recent years – O-Line and Cornerback.
They need to address the O-Line.
However, they have a shutdown cornerback sitting on their team and he’s just now emerging. He’s like if Xavier Rhodes was a better athlete. He’s big, physical, aggressive, athletic – 2016 #1 draft pick, lost to a preseason injury in 2016 but back for 2017, highly graded by us for the 2016 NFL Draft CB Will Jackson (5 tackles).
You wonder why Diggs and Thielen had some issues with output here…Jackson was why. Keenum wasn’t daring to throw it near Jackson much at all. Jackson is a true shutdown corner talent and has a profile to be a top 5 shutdown corner in the league already.
College football is pumping three things into the NFL in huge supply… Well-trained, a million lifetime rep passers at QB, plus the WRs who’ve had the same extensive training with them since grade school…but then don’t forget the guys that have to cover the QB-WRs in summer 7-on-7s, the great athletes who can’t catch so they get put at cornerback. Shutdown corners are flooding the NFL – and that’s going to affect #1 WRs for fantasy in the future and may give rise to how good the #2 WR on a team is for fantasy planning because they get lesser coverage.
Will Jackson…mark it down. If I’m right, half the field will be shut off in 2018 for Cincy. Antonio Brown v. Will Jackson twice a year is going to be interesting because Jackson doesn’t take crap from anyone, we’ll see if he can cover Antonio one-on-one.
Snap Counts of Interest…
33 = McKinnon
32 = Diggs
44 = Kroft
23 = Uzomah