I'm not going to say that the Cincinnati Bengals are better than the Green Bay Packers, but I could make the argument that these teams are not as far apart from each other as you might think.
Cincinnati should've won this game. They were the better team for most of the game... and that's not saying a whole lot. Both teams leave a lot to be desired. Green Bay has an excuse because they're riddled with injuries. Still, the reality was that the Bengals should've won this game but Aaron Rodgers is a wizard. The Bengals should've won this game and they should've slipped by the Texans the prior week. In another universe, the Bengals are 2–1 right now. Instead, they are 0–3. Which is good because I bet them under like 8.0 wins this season back in May 2017.
Looking back over the Packers 2017... It's not good. They struggled with and played equally as bad as Seattle in their home opener win. Seattle is terrible and Green Bay played to their level and pulled the game out in the end. The Packers got humiliated by Atlanta in Week 2. The Packers should've lost to the Bengals right here Week 3. Green Bay is very lucky they are not 1–2 or even 0-3. Consider that before you lay 7.5 points to the Bears Thursday night. I know I'm not going to. Not until Green Bay gets healthier on the offensive line.
I won't spend a lot of time on Packers players here because most of all we all already knew happened here. Their defense is terrible, Jordy Nelson is great, and Aaron Rodgers sold his soul to the devil to become the most talented quarterback of all time.
The Bengals did a smart thing in this game: They basically put the ball in the hands of two players the entire game. One being A.J. Green, and the other Joe Mixon. And Mr. Mixon is where we're going to start the player analysis…
Fantasy player notes…
-- When I first saw Joe Mixon (18-62-0, 3-39-0/3) in the preseason, within three touches, I knew I was wrong about my scouting on him coming at Oklahoma. I thought he was pretty good, but I did not see 'great' as being on the table. Not just because of the off-field stuff, but I just didn't see where he was that much better than college teammate Samaje Perine. Both thrived at Oklahoma, but Perine was actually the better producer. I believed there was not much difference between the two, except Perine was a more solid citizen. For the draft price, I would've taken Perine over Mixon.
I'm still a fan of Perine, and I think he's getting a raw deal with Washington, but we're not here to talk about Perine. We're here to talk about Mixon. I did not realize Mixon might be great. Most people signed onto that theory right away, I did not… initially.
Once I thought I saw what I missed, I became a big Mixon cheerleader in the preseason. I saw greatness in flashes, and I don't say that lightly. As soon as I went bananas for Mixon, he started to deliver very mild preseason performances. He was definitely a second-class citizen in the preseason, not someone the team was fully pushing... Not because they didn't believe but because of some nonsense about pecking orders and rookies… you know, because Marvin Lewis is such a great coach. That's why the Bengals are 0-3.
After Mixon's muted preseason followed by nothing special the first two weeks of the regular season, I started to get a little worried. Some of those flashes of brilliance I saw early in the preseason had suddenly dissipated later in the preseason and early on in the regular season. I started to wonder if I jumped the gun on Mixon last week. I know what I saw. I know some of the abilities I saw with him, so I tried to stay fully committed but I was starting to have small doubts on the full extent of greatness after watching Weeks 1–2. He looked more mediocre than elite; a little skittish. That's not unusual for a rookie, but it unnerved me from my flowery praise just to touch.
After I watched week three versus Green Bay, live on Sunday, I still felt like we had not seen that flashy Mixon from what seems like a million years ago in the preseason. I got more touches than usual. He seemed more important in the offense, but I remember too many low gain/loss carries. I didn't feel like Mixon took a big leap in Week 3 besides feeling like the new offensive coordinator was definitely making a push with him.
Then I rewatched this game today...
Oh, it's on.
It's Joe Mixon time… right here, right now.
I swear to you, I have never seen a running back look like he was running the ball without his feet touching the ground. Mixon moves like no other running back I've ever seen. I'm not saying he's the best running back I've ever seen because that's David Johnson, but I've never seen anyone Mixon's size or any size, literally float as they're running with the ball. It's like he's on a cloud. It's like he's on an airport moving walkway. It's like he's one of those vampires in those stupid Twilight movies my wife loves—I think she's Team Edward, if you're wondering. Is that still a thing? It feels like a decade ago but it's like every weekend in my house… and I still do not understand one second of it… but, hey, she's happy.
I've never seen anything in the NFL like how Joe Mixon moves.
I saw 'it,' the special Joe Mixon in brief flashes in the preseason, but not consistently. I didn't think it happened in Week 3 live but now after rewatching this game for study purposes... I have to ask myself what I was doing during this game. It was right there in front of me. Was I watching Twilight with my wife by accident? Mixon had several carries in this game where he just floated by would-be tacklers, changing directions in a way that defied the laws of known gravity. He didn't rush for 100+ yards. He didn't score TDs. But what he did was put down the tape that showed on every other carry what is possible with him. Packers defenders made a couple nice shoestring tackles on him, or he might've run for 150+ yards in this game.
Not only is the tape a seminal, game-changing moment but the reason to really get excited: Mixon seems to be the focus of the offense from a running back perspective. Under the new offensive coordinator, there's no more dilly-dallying around with Hill-Gio-Mixon. That idiocy got a guy fired last week. The new OC must be pretty smart and has commonsense because you saw Mixon in the backfield way more than the other guys. That's not to say the other guys won't get touches, but this is Joe Mixon's backfield now. It showed on tape and from people I've talked to, the new OC has made it clear to the other RBs the future is Joe Mixon.
CIN RB Snap Counts…
34 = Mixon
14 = Hill
13 = Gio
Because the Bengals are 0-3 and likely on their way to probably going 5–11, there is no reason for the Bengals not to get Mixon ready for the future. Heck, he might actually be able to save their jobs this year. I wouldn't be surprised if free agent-to-be Jeremy Hill was traded any day now and this backfield becomes mostly Mixon with Gio sprinkled in.
Now, it's time to start starting Joe Mixon in Fantasy. Welcome to the new millennium.
-- Joe Mixon is a better running back than Ty Montgomery (12-35-0, 8-15-0/12), but the reason Ty may have better fantasy numbers is because of the offense he plays with. This was a typical game we'll see from Montgomery this year: 10+ carries and 7+ targets in a game. He's clearly the best running back option a high volume offense has... a high-volume offense that can't stop anyone on defense so they're going to be in shootouts every week.
Montgomery may get so many flare passes out of the backfield that he leads all running backs in receptions this season… Well, maybe just #2 behind Tarik Cohen.
I'm not paying full price to FF-bet on Montgomery right now, but I think I'm right. He worries me in that he always seems to be nicked up every couple games. And the Packers have no qualms about throwing passes from the 1-yard line versus letting him take the plunge.
-- IDP rookie Josh Jones (12 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFLs) looked terrific in this game. One of the reasons the Packers will be better in the second half of the season it's because they have young DBs just getting their sea legs under them.
I scouted Jones for the 2017 NFL draft – supremely gifted, athletically but very lazy and complacent at times. We are in the motivated Josh Jones-era and probably will be until he rests on his laurels next season. Expect him to have nice IDP numbers for several starts before tailing off.
-- Two things about tight ends involved in this game…
Martellus Bennett (3-12-0/4) looks terrible. He's either way behind figuring things out with his new team or he's on the downward slide as a football player. You can't trust him. I never do.
I denigrated Tyler Kroft (3-28-0/4) in my 'waiver guys not to trust' this week. As I re-watched this game, I might've been a little too harsh on Kroft. I still don't believe in him as a useful fantasy asset but I shouldn't make it seem like he's incompetent. He's actually not a bad little player. I just don't see a big upside with him in this offense... and then C.J. Uzomah lurks as well, and he’s just getting back from injury.
-- Just one quick thing about Jordy Nelson (6-52-2/9). Why is it no one ever speaks of him as the best wide receiver in football? How many times can a guy come through with great catches and great moments and have people begrudgingly think he's a low-end WR1 but don't trust it?
Jordy missed Week 2. In the two games he has played this season: 6.5 catches, 65.5 yards, 1.5 TDs.
Snap Counts of Interest…
67 = Martellus Bennett
17 = Lance Kendricks
10 = Richard Rodgers
60 = Kroft
17 = Uzomah
56 = LaFell
30 = Boyd
13 = Erickson
70 = Nick Vigil (100%)
54 = Carl Lawson (54%)