Oct 4, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A Cincinnati Bengals dancer performs during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati defeated Kansas City 36-21. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Last Monday, the Seattle Seahawks relied on their defense and end zone referee voodoo to scratch out a win over the Detroit Lions by a score of 13-10.
Unfortunately, in a game where Seattle scored only one touchdown, our wager on Detroit +7 in the first half of the game was a push, as the Seahawks led the game by that exact amount at halftime.
After reviewing cutups of last week’s game, it’s clear that my derision toward the offensive line isn’t harsh enough. Just watch the Vine clips linked here and in the previous sentence, and key in on the center, left guard, and left tackle in each one. That’s just two plays in a season full of bloopers and prat falls by the group up front that would make Jack Tripper proud.
It’s almost as if constructing an offensive line by arrogantly throwing together a collection of ragtag defensive linemen not good enough to play their natural position in the NFL, with some undrafted free agents and a monumental overdraft of an inflexible right tackle, is a bad idea. Strange, huh?
On Thursday of this week, O-line coach Tom Cable looked right at a camera and, talking about his guys, said when they “get it” they are going to be “really good.”
I want to be very clear about this – Tom Cable is lying to your face. He already stated previously that J.R. Sweezy is one of the best young guards in the league and that he and James Carpenter formed a great tandem. When Sweezy completely whiffs on blocks – and it happens a couple times per quarter – I like to think back to that statement and smile. Then cry. I’m not here to pile on the guys, but I am here to say that Cable’s rhetoric is less believable than that of a promise-filled politician running for office.
The Seahawks don’t even need a great offensive line to succeed. It just has to not be deplorable. Unfortunately, it seems to be too much to ask for this group to be anything other than awful.
No matter what Tom Cable says.
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Okay – deep breaths. Deep breaths. We’re on to Cincinnati!
This week’s game will be fun to watch, as the Seahawks trek into The Jungle to take on an undefeated juggernaut of a team that can’t possibly play any better than they are right now. The 4-0 Bengals will present the Seahawks with challenges all over the field, and on both sides of the ball.
On offense, the Bengals attack with a true thunder-and-lightning tandem of running backs in Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. Seattle can handle guys like Hill, but it’s the quick-footed, change-of-direction players like Bernard that seem to give the defense fits. He is the one to key against in the backfield.
Pass catchers include $70M man A.J. Green along with Marvin Jones at receiver and a healthy-and-improving Tyler Eifert at tight end. K.J. Wright will be tested by Eifert often and must be up to the challenge for the defense to succeed on key third downs.
Quarterback Andy Dalton (aka Red Rocket, aka Firecrotch, aka The Joker) is having a career year, and you can’t say he has sold his soul to the devil for it because we all know he has no soul to offer. No, the reason he is scorching hot with a 9:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a passer rating of 123.0 is because the Bengals have a very good offensive line that is giving Dalton time to find and hit his targets in complete comfort, having allowed only two sacks in four games.
See how this all ties together? This is not a coincidence. Heck, Russell Wilson will be sacked twice before half the crowd finds its seats on Sunday.
Defensively, the Bengals are strong up front with Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins (oh lord), and Michael Johnson. The secondary features on one side Adam Jones, who has seemingly matured as a person and into a good cover corner, and Dre Kirkpatrick on the other. Kirkpatrick is still trying to live up to his first round draft status and should be tested often by Seahawks wideouts.
I see something very appealing in the linebacking unit. While Rey Maualuga protects the middle between the hashes on run downs, one outside spot is filled by A.J. Hawk– a man still plying his trade as a starter in the league for reasons I’ll never comprehend. In both the run and pass games, I hope and expect offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to scheme favorable matchups against career underachiever Hawk.
Now the big question- who to bet on this week?
The line on this game started out at Bengals -1 point. Do you remember that scene in the movie World War Z when the zombies- in a relentless attempt to scale the wall of the city- basically formed a mountain comprised of their own bodies that eventually rose high enough to finally allow some of them to get over the wall and feast on the flesh of the living?
A scene similar to that unfolded in Las Vegas sportsbooks throughout the city, as bettors stampeded each other so they could quickly get to the ticket window and place their life savings on the Bengals at that number. As a result, the line has moved to its current residence- Cincinnati -3. Unfortunately, that’s still not high enough to properly reflect how these teams are currently playing.
If games are truly won and lost at the line of scrimmage, the Bengals offense and Seahawks defense essentially cancel each other out. They’re both really good and will spend all day exchanging momentum. Conversely, the Cincinnati D-line versus the Seattle O-line is a mismatch. A very ugly, Rams-like mismatch along the front.
The Seahawks are going to have to visit the end zone multiple times to win this game, and I do not have nearly enough faith to believe the offensive line can find it within themselves to put forth the kind of effort necessary to pull it off. While the defense will be its usual tough, stingy self, eventually they’ll tire of trying to hold off the Bengals without enough help from their own offense.
In addition, the Seahawks are coming off a short week of practice and travel three time zones to play a game at 10am BCT (body clock time), which has forever been a difficult task for this team. They’ll also do it without Marshawn Lynch, who has already been ruled out and will not play.
It all adds up to an old saying you’ve probably heard before – “bet with your head, not with your heart.”
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Seattle 10.
Wager: 100 credits on Cincinnati -3.
Season to date: -100 credits