Category Archives: Bengals

Ravens vs Bengals: What Went Wrong The First Time

Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens will be in Cincinnati this Sunday, looking to avenge their week 1 loss. The Ravens were defeated 23-17 in their frustrating season opener. The Ravens offense went away from their winning formula; Joe Flacco had 62 passing attempts while Ravens running backs got only 20 carries. Pass protection was the glaring weakness of the Ravens on that bitter day. This was on exacerbated by Flacco having nowhere to throw the football down the field. In order to avoid the mistakes from game 1, we must truly understand how they happened.

The Ravens frequently lined up in an empty set (no running back or motioned back to be a receiver). The plan was to spread out a strong front seven. In an empty set however the offensive line is on its own to protect the quarterback. If the line struggles protecting the passer in an empty set, the ball most be released quickly. The Bengals did a great job in coverage down the field, forcing coverage sacks and rushed and forced throws from Flacco. This is evident in the first picture, I have for you:

The Ravens offensive line made several errors that got Joe Flacco jacked up. Ricky Wagner, in his first start, struggled the most. Clearly however the unit had some missed assignments as a group. Here is one example of how the Bengals got pressure on Flacco:

Here the Bengals have a numbers advantage on the right side. Marshall Yanda is covered by a defensive tackle. Rick Wagner drops straight back eyeing the outside linebacker. The defensive back in the picture blitzes in between Wagner and Yanda. It was an easy sack created by simple math and Wagner’s fear of letting the outside rusher get by him. The general rule is block the inside man first, because he has the quickest path to the quarterback. Flacco would have been rushed any way, but he would have had a chance if Wagner blocked correctly.

Lets fast forward to the final possession. The Ravens saw their quest for a last minute touchdown end with a turnover on downs. Flacco was sacked twice at the end of the game. The first sack was simply a coverage sack. The Ravens lined up in an empty set- Joe had no where to throw it- he rolled out and got pummeled.

The last sack was a little more than that. The Bengals once again created a numbers advantage on Wagner’s side.

Yanda got beat. The guy Wagner could not block has a free shot at Joe. Thus resulted in two Bengals sharing a sack.

I would expect a lot less empty set offense from the Ravens. If the Ravens give Flacco some options underneath and the Ravens focus on pass protection it should be a better day for the Ravens offense. At the end of the day though, you can’t make your offense 1 dimensional against Cincinnati.

AFC North: Quarter Poll Evaluation

Chris Schisler
Presented By Yogolaada

Week 4 is in the books and one quarter of the season is completed. We will start our quarter poll evaluations with the AFC North.

The pundits spent the offseason debating whether Cincinnati or Baltimore would be crowned AFC North Champion. While no team is out of it this early, it looks like a 2 team race. The Bengals opened the season with a gritty win in Baltimore. For the moment this gives them the advantage. The Ravens have really played well since then.

Pittsburgh is (to steal a line from Denny Green) who we thought they were. They are an average team with Ben Roethlisberger as their only extraordinary component. The Browns are much improved, but at 1-2 sit in last place.

Team Evaluations
1.) Bengals: 3-0
The Bengals are playing good football all the way around. The key for the Bengals is that Dalton plays mistake free football. Dalton has done just that. The Bengals have plenty of talent everything depends on Andy Dalton. So far, Dalton is delivering.

Defensively the Bengals are truly impressive. The thing that I am so wowed by is their ability to get pass rush without sending a bunch of blitzers. They have guys who can win one on one battles with offensive lineman all over the front 7. Spreading them out only allows them to show their freakish athleticism in their linebacking group. The secondary is good but when the front 7 is so dominant it can look great.

2.) Baltimore Ravens: 3-1
The beautiful thing about the Ravens is that they are getting better every week. After stumbling in the opener the Ravens have won three straight. The purple and black dominated the Steelers 26-6. It was an impressive win during a short week and the Ray Rice video aftermath. The Ravens then traveled to Cleveland and squeaked out a win against a reborn Browns team. The Ravens last game was a 38-10 pulverization of the Panthers.

There is a sense that the Ravens are just beginning to take flight. The creative offense is behooving Joe Flacco, who looks like a new quarterback. The Ravens running game has been sensational. Steve Smith Sr., Owen Daniels and Kyle Juszczyk have provided Joe Flacco a much better set of weapons. The Ravens have a top 10 offense after week 4, in a brand new offense.

The defense is a work in progress. It has at moments looked great, awful and everything in between. The positive though is that its not allowing a lot of points. With the Ravens offense putting up the points, and a defense that gives up touchdowns seldom, it’s all good in Baltimore.

3.) Pittsburgh Steelers 2-2
The Steelers blew a huge lead against Cleveland, to win their opener in dramatic fashion. The Steelers were then crushed by Baltimore 26-6. They bounced back by steamrolling over Carolina. The lowly Bucs beat them, after that. The 2-2 start is indicative of the average team that they are.

The Steelers are not bad but they are not great. Ben Roethlisberger is still a dangerous quarterback. Antonio Brown continues to be a star; Le’Veon Bell has become one. The offensive line is still a concern (at least in pass protection) and Ben needs mire weapons.

The defense is far from the dominant group they used to be. The Steelers are starting a youth movement on defense, slowly replacing older players. The secondary is laughable and the front 7 can be run on.

4.) Cleveland Browns: 1-2
Close but no cigar is a phrase Cleveland can relate to. The Browns nearly bested the Steelers. They then beat the New Orleans Saints in the dog-pound. The Ravens slipped past them on a last second field goal and then it was their bye week. The Browns could easily be 3-0 but are in typical Browns fashion, 1-2.

After all the Johnny Football hype, it has been Brian Hoyer, who has impressed under center. Hoyer has exceeded expectations and the Browns have played tough in every game. The defense is strong. If the Browns learn to finish, they will be a tough out in the AFC North.

Rant of the week: The Great Cost of Good

Chris Schisler

Andy Dalton is a decent quarterback capable of putting up big numbers. He has led the Bengals to three playoff appearances. Now the Bengals young quarterback has just received a $96 million contract. It sounds like the football equivalent of a fairy tale; of course there is a catch.

Dalton is 0-3 in the playoffs. In playoff games he has thrown 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions. Have the Bengals committed to Andy Dalton as their franchise quarterback? Here is a better question; is this the cost of a decent quarterback in the National Football League?

The masses cried a horrible cry when Joe Flacco got a 120.6 million 6 year contract from the Ravens. Flacco of course was a Super Bowl MVP and has won more road playoff games than any other quarterback in NFL history. It was a hefty price but it matched an equally impressive resume. The contract is actually well constructed for both the Ravens and Flacco. Its not like a truck shows up at his home and dumps 120.6 million dollars in his drive way.

The Dalton deal is not really all that shocking. The Bengals can get out of it in two years, there is not a ton of guaranteed money. Dalton has done enough in the regular season to earn a hefty contract; we can’t forget that the Bengals went 4-12 the year before he got there. $96 million no matter how it is sliced and promised is a large commitment. That is the absurd cost of a good quarterback in the NFL.

Yes everybody, what used to be an unthinkably large contract for even great players is now what we give good quarterbacks. It makes sense. There are 32 teams but there are not 32 good quarterbacks. There are even fewer great quarterbacks. Without a good quarterback in today’s NFL you are essentially a gun with out bullets. Its simple supply and demand.

Here is my problem. This sets a very scary precedent. Teams are committing to mega deals with quarterbacks that have not achieved the most important statistic. The only thing that matters, when you boil everything down, is playoff performance. You can give me all the touchdowns, passing yards, passer ratings and completion percentages you want. Feeling confident in your quarterback in the final moments of a playoff game that is priceless. Thats what should earn the mega contracts (that are shaped in a cap friendly way).

Basically what the Bengals did was say: we don’t want to find another quarterback so we’re going to pay him a lot of money. It is so hard to find a great quarterback that teams settle for good enough. I am not tearing down Dalton. He is better than average he just is not great. I just want to know this, when does he actually need to accomplish something?

Should Marvin Lewis Be On The Hot Seat?

Going into his 12th season with the Bengals head coach, Marvin Lewis, has yet to win a playoff game. He has an 0-5 record in postseason play; last season his team fell at home to the San Diego Chargers. Lewis is credited with bringing legitimacy to a team once mocked as the “Bungles”. He has three division championships and have been competitive in most of his tenure. At what point however does the front office lose patience, with simply not being bad? So the question that this article will explore is: Should Marvin Lewis be on the hot seat?

We must admit that coaches have been fired for a whole lot less. Every year the so called coaching carrousel spins madly. Coaches come and coaches go. Marvin Lewis has led the Bengals franchise since 2003. He has become one of the exceptions to the rule of short coaching tenures. And is the only one of these exceptions not to have a playoff victory under his belt.

The Bengals front office knows at least in the front of their minds that they have probably reached their peak under Lewis. At what point do they demand playoff success? To use Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, if the Bengals keep trying to make it work with Lewis they cannot expect different results.

All of this being said it is doubtful they will even consider getting rid of Lewis if he remains winless in the postseason. It is more likely that they would blame quarterback, Andy Dalton than Lewis. The Bengals were a laughing stock before Marvin Lewis. He made them a respectable team. I don’t know that anything will make them fire Lewis. Even if there is reason to do so.

Early Predictions: AFC North

Chris Schisler

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens: 12-4
Reasons: I think the Ravens will have a dominant defense. The Ravens have a now fairly youthful and loaded defensive roster. I also think Gary Kubiak will help Joe Flacco better than ever. The Ravens have more offensive talent around Joe than he has had in his whole career.

Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6
Reasons: This is a very good team. The Bengals however have their flaws. 10-6 will not win the AFC North for a second consecutive season. The Bengals have beaten lesser competition but have struggled against playoff teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-8
Reasons: Its hard to imagine a bad Steelers team but very easy to see an average one. Big Ben gives them some legitimacy however I don’t see a great team around him. The offensive line is still a major concern. The secondary is still a major concern as well.

Cleveland Browns: 6-10
Reasons: Without Gordon, the offense could struggle. Brian Hoyer is capable but nothing special. Johhny Manziel could be special but it will not happen right away. The Browns will be competitive but will lack the firepower needed offensively.

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Fatal Flaws AFC North

When the regular season begins the hunt for playoff spots begins. When the playoffs begin the strongest 12 remain to fight for the Lombardi Trophy. Only one team walks away from the football season a champion. 31 teams will fail to reach their goal of a championship. Every team has a fatal flaw, a weakness that gets them eliminated somewhere along the way. Every team is flawed, and any flaw can be fatal to their season. The Super Bowl champion overcomes their flaws to win it all because they are most suited win their playoff match ups. Lets examine the fatal flaws each team has, that may prevent their Super Bowl glory.

We continue this examination of every NFL team with the AFC North

Baltimore Ravens
Fatal Flaw: Putting It All Together
Explanation: There are a lot of new pieces to the Ravens construction for the upcoming season. The entire offensive coaching staff has been changed, with the exception of Juan Castillo as the line coach. The Ravens have a few new offensive players in Steve Smith, Owen Daniels and Crockett Gillmore. A handful of expected starters are rookies or are relatively inexperienced Terrence Brooks, CJ Mosley, Timmy Jernigan and Ricky Wagner. On paper the Ravens made a lot of improvements. It may not come together so smoothly in the beginning of the season. If the Ravens gel they will be great. If the Ravens can’t it could be a long season or at least a disappointing end.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Fatal Flaw: Is There Enough Talent Around Big Ben?
Explanation: Ben Roethlisberger gives Pittsburgh a shot in every game they play; he is that good of a quarterback. After missing the playoffs two years in a row you have to wonder if he needs more help. Antonio Brown and Heath Miller are both strong receiving options. However after that the arsenal of pass catchers is questionable at best. Markus Wheaton is now the likely number two receiver after Pittsburgh lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery to free agency. Wheaton, entering his sophomore season, has 6 receptions as a Steeler. The offensive line is still a huge concern as well. Big Ben has to be great for this team to win; it cannot survive if he does not bring his A game.

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Cincinnati Bengals
Fatal Flaw: Andy Dalton in Crunch Time
Explanation: I am sorry, but I am not filled with confidence in Andy Dalton. Dalton is the single biggest reason a talented Bengals team was embarrassed in the playoffs, at home against the Chargers. Andy Dalton is not a clutch quarterback. He is good, never great and is often bailed out by AJ Green. He has yet to win a playoff game in 3 chances. He has thrown 6 interceptions in the playoffs. Each playoff season is the same story. Dalton can’t get a good team over the hump.

Cleveland Browns
Fatal Flaw: QB Controversy
Explanation: The Browns have a decent roster but are a bit more than a quarterback from being successful. Brian Hoyer gives the Browns the best chance to win now. However if the team struggles with Hoyer the pressure to bring in Johnny Manziel will be ever present. If Manziel is not ready, and they play him it can only go poorly. Manziel could be amazing but it will take time.

Season Preview AFC North

The AFC North is consistently one of the toughest divisions in football. The division is known for its bitter rivalries and hard hitting defense. The Ravens-Steelers rivalry has become one of the most intense rivalries in professional sports. The Baltimore Ravens have won 2 of the last three division championships but missed the playoffs in 2013. Cincinnati won the division but lost an embarrassing home playoff game to San Diego. Pittsburgh was 8-8 last year and Cleveland finished last as usual. It looks to be anyone’s division as 2014 approaches. The Bengals are the division champions until someone knocks them off.

The Baltimore Ravens are primed to become contenders again. Coming out of the draft the Ravens have only one area of real concern, the right tackle position. The Ravens got an upgrade at center, making a trade for Jeremy Zuttah with the Buccaneers. With a healthy Kelechi Osemele at guard it is up to either Ricky Wagner or undrafted free agent James Hurst to step up at right tackle. The Ravens fatal flaw in 2013 was their offensive line. In 2014 it should be greatly improved.

The Ravens signed Steve Smith in free agency. Smith will be a difference maker. Last year teams could take away Torrey Smith and the Ravens were out if options. You can’t double team both Smiths, and you can’t forget about Dennis Pitta. The Ravens look to run a lot of two tight end sets. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has a track record of great running games that speaks for itself. Expect bigger and better things offensively for Baltimore.

Defensively the Ravens also have high expectations. Rookies CJ Mosley and Terrance Brooks should make an impact on day 1. Brent Urban and Timmy Jernigan add to a strong defensive line. The Ravens finished 12th in defense last year; I think they are capable of a top 10 performance in 2014.

I expect Baltimore to win the division with a record of 12-4. Joe Flacco has a legitimate offensive coordinator and a good group of weapons. He has no excuses in 2014 and he has won with less.

The Bengals have one of the best rosters in football. Despite losing defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, the Bengals defense is strong. They have a great group of playmakers on offense AJ Green, Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert just to name a few. The question is how far can Andy Dalton take them.

The Bengals were practically given their division title last season. Baltimore and Pittsburgh were dysfunctional and the Browns…well they were the Browns. If Baltimore regains the stride that won them the division title in 2011-2012 the Bengals are in trouble. Andy Dalton traditionally plays poorly. Dalton on most days would have given the Ravens the game with 2 interceptions in week 17. The 2013 Ravens were too stubbornly bad to take advantage. The Bengals are a good team that should be respected but not feared. Marvin Lewis’s club is 0-5 in the postseason for a reason. Cincinnati will go 10-6 and be a wild card team, thats my prediction.

The Cleveland Browns got a lot more interesting in the NFL Draft, getting their franchise quarterback, Johnny Manziel. The Browns probably won’t have a lot of patience and Manziel may get on the field early. Its hard to be patient after years of losing. Fans expect Manziel to save them, only time will tell if he can. Terrance West was a good draft pick for Cleveland. He adds a power running game to take pressure off the quarterback. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are the main weapons for Cleveland’s passing attack. The offense is the question, we know they have a good defense. I think the Browns will be competitive, they are heading in the right direction. However they are a year or two away from making some real noise.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and could be looking at a third. They may have a special duo in Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin but they do not have a special team. Roethlisberger was the only reason Pittsburgh managed 8 wins last season. The defense is not what it once was and neither are some its aging starsThe Steelers may be capable of a decent year, but they are behind Cincinatti and Baltimore.

In the end it comes down to the Ravens and the Bengals. The Ravens will take steps offensively and Joe Flacco will out duel Andy Dalton. The Ravens and Bengals meet week one. Both teams will look to make a statement in the opener.

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