Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Bengals Can Win The Super Bowl! No, Seriously

Things are happening with these Bengals. Yes, they are. Things. Happening. Like, winning in a way we've never really seen before. And by "we've," I mean me. And by "before," I mean since I was nine. The Bengals are playing a boring brand of football, but it's legitimate. No smoke, no mirrors. The Bengals are freaking good, and dare I say it...Super Bowl Contenders.

Raise your hand if you want my thoughts on the current state of Cincinnati's professional football team? That's what I thought...

1. I get the feeling that the Larry Johnson signing is viewed positively, and I'm not really sure why that is. For one (and most importantly), he might not be any good. Over his last 483 carries, dating back to game 1 of the '07 season, Johnson's averaged 3.7 yards per carry. For deux, is he really needed? The Bengals next three games are against Oakland, Detroit and Cleveland, and the Bengals will be overwhelming favorites in each. So, I know Cedric Benson is a little banged up, and I know Bernard Scott can't fully be trusted, but my Aunt Dorothy could be the Bengals' starting RB for those games and they'll still likely be 10-2. For three, he's a dumb jackass, and he always has been, dating back to his days at Penn State. The dude is a frontrunner -- which can be okay -- but the second things aren't going his way, he becomes a cancer of epic proportions.

The Larry Johnson move might end up being a smart move, and it may be of no consequence. But I just feel as if the whole thing was completely unnecessary. Why risk screwing up perfect chemistry??

2. Chad Ochocinco was once one of the more brilliant deep threats in American football, and then he wasn't. Why is that? To the best of my knowledge he's still capable of blowing by defenders; in fact, every highlight of one of Ochocinco's receptions shows DBs still very much on their heels when chasing No. 85 around. I know he's still got it, and I'm guessing the rest of the team knows he's still got it. So, why -- with Chris Henry out for the season -- isn't Ochocinco being sent deep several times each game (or rather, why isn't Carson Palmer attempting deep passes more frequently)? It seems to me that I'm more concerned with this than others-----trust me, this will be an issue come playoff time. Look at it this way: Even without Henry, the Bengals have the personnel to go deep, and are more or less refusing to unleash that weapon. Doesn't that seem silly to you? Plus, merely trying a deep ball is almost as important as connecting on one. It softens up the defense. And what about the possibility of pass interference...

3. Why aren't we hearing more about the progress being made by first rounder Andre Smith? This could mean he's not making any, but I choose to believe it's simply because the Bengals are winning football matches with greater regularity than in recent years. Whatever the case, isn't it nice to envision a scenario where Andre Smith works his way into (at the minimum) obvious-running-down shape? Let's not forget, he's probably the best lineman on the team (and unquestionably the most talented). Nobody ever said the guy didn't love football, or play his ass off at Alabama. Smith's red flags included dealings with an agent (and other knuckle-headedness), weight concerns and is he an effective pass-blocker?

But if he's fit enough to play -- and if his repaired foot isn't at risk -- Smith can be a major asset in the running game come January. If nothing else, the Bengals basically get an extra first round pick next season.

Speaking of January, let's talk about February, the month that features Super Bowl XLIV, a game the Bengals are worthy of competing in...

I'm serious, people.

4. The Bengals really are contenders for the big prize, and it's for reasons I never could have imagined. Namely, defense.

5. In case my eyes are deceiving me, Brandon Johnson is a Pro Bowl linebacker. He's versatile and fast and smart and he makes plays all over the field. And...Jesus, I love watching that guy play.

6. In case my eyes are deceiving me, Jonathan Fanene is the best defensive end I've seen wear a Bengals uniform.

And you know what? Marvin Lewis deserves a ton of credit for this. Through his first three professional seasons (05-07), Fanene played in twenty-one of a possible forty-eight contests, recording 12 tackles and 1 sack. As a player who was making very little money, Fanene was injured much too often to ever be counted on. Most of the time, these sort of players get cut. But Lewis saw something (probably practice-field dominance), and keeping Fanene on the roster could go down as the best decision Marvin Lewis ever made.

I see Fanene as a dominant force at defensive end -- a guy who plays all three downs and is just as effective against the run as he is against the pass. And I would love to say this surprises me, but it kind of doesn't. At some point during the '06 season, I was discussing all-things Bengal with Dave Laphman, and for whatever reason Fanene's name came up. Lapham told me Fanene was unblockable in practice -- and off-the-charts strong (this led to a conversation about Samoan strength being a different type of strength, but anyway) -- and that Marvin Lewis (a guy who has no tolerance for oft-injured players) was willing to look past the neverending stream of injuries that kept him out of game after game for those first few seasons.

Again: Unproductive 7th round picks are not allowed to be injured; they're disposable. If you can't stay healthy, I'll find someone who can. But Lewis saw something in Fanene, and now he's developed into a force on America's most underrated unit.

7. In case my eys are deceiving me, Domata Peko is the Bengals' best defensive tackle since Tim Krumrie shattered his leg. This is mostly by default, but still.

8. In case my eyes are deceiving me, Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph are in the discussion for "Best corner tandem in the NFL." You got another duo playing at a higher level? Do you? I don't.

9. In case my eyes are deceiving me, Morgan Trent is good enough to start for half the teams in the league.

10. In case my eyes are deceiving me, 6'7 Michael Johnson's best pass-rushing move on Sunday was to duck under Steelers left tackle Max Starks. And because it's the Bengals, and because it's 2009, it worked! On multiple occasions!

11. Do I need to keep going?

Look, the defense is good. Really good. They have space eaters and quarterback molesters and instinctive linebackers who chase everyone down. The DBs don't always corral the catchable balls, but they almost always knock them down. I don't see a single weakness on this unit, and there is nothing gimmicky or phony about them, which is why they can win the Super Bowl.

And I'll keep repeating the line until I convince myself it's a possibility...

The Bengals can win the Super Bowl!

-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)