Tag:Cincinnati Bengals
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:27 pm
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Wild-Card Weekend podcast preview

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

It's playoff preview time and that means our full-on Wild-Card Weekend preview.

Before we dive into the games, we debate the Penn State hire of Bill O'Brien (and wonder what the hell is wrong with all these members of the Penn State "family" who are ripping the hire publicly), discuss the possibility of Ray Horton going to St. Louis and some other coaching moves.

Then we dive into the games and ask all the important questions: Are the Bengals and Texans too similar? Can Johnathan Joseph keep A.J. Green in check? Will the Bengals rush defense show up on Saturday?

How about the Lions? Did Wilson really pick them to win? Can Ndamukong Suh make a difference? Are the Falcons the worst nightmare for Eli Manning? Will the Giants pass rush show up on Sunday? And, of course, will Tebowmania finally die?

(Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes? And if you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.)


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Posted on: January 4, 2012 11:21 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 11:46 am
 

Film Room: Texans vs. Bengals wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Bengals managed to back-in to the playoffs despite going 1-6 against teams with a winning record. They may not seem like a dangerous playoff opponent, but if you’re the Texans – a team that’s 0-0 all-time in postseason play – every playoff opponent is dangerous. Here’s a breakdown of the Saturday afternoon wild card matchup.


1. Bengals run game vs. Texans front seven
Cincinnati’s methodical, power-based rushing attack (ranked 19th) struggles against fast defensive front sevens. Cedric Benson has more lateral agility than you’d guess, but he lacks the elite initial quickness to make dramatic cutbacks early in the run.

This lends a certain predictability to Cincinnati’s ground game. Less concerned about getting burned in their own over-pursuit, front seven defenders take a faster, more attack-oriented approach.

The Bengals counter this by overloading with six-man offensive lines and multiple lead-and motion-blockers. A speedy defense might trip them up early in the game, but the belief is Benson and his blockers can wear it down late.

That wasn’t the case when these teams met in Week 14. The Bengals tried to go to the ground to protect a late lead, but Benson totaled minus-five yards on five carries in the fourth quarter. Not only are the Texans’ linebackers collectively faster than any in the NFL, but defensive ends – J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith and Tim Jamison are elite penetrating run-stoppers.

If the Bengals want to sustain offense against Wade Phillips’ crew, they’ll have to go to the air.

2. Dalton and the passing attack
The second-rounder from TCU has been one of the steadiest, most cerebral game-managers in all of football this season. What Dalton lacks in arm strength he makes up for in timing, poise and confidence.

First-year offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has built a system ideally suited for Dalton, featuring play-action and rollouts, moving pockets and quick-strike reads to the slot and flats (hence the expanded joker role for tight end Jermaine Gresham). Dalton has the pocket toughness and moxie to make it work.

But that speedy front seven from Houston can jeopardize all this. It’s not just that the Texans sack quarterbacks (they ranked sixth in that department this season), it’s that they make them play fast. Connor Barwin’s and Brooks Reed’s relentless off the edge rattles pockets; J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith are two of the few 3-4 ends who can beat a pass-blocker with a quick first step; and perhaps most significant, inside linebacker

Brian Cushing blitzes with impeccable speed and timing. Cushing’s effectiveness in this sense is a big reason why Houston has frequently had success blitzing with just five rushers. Able to keep defenders back, the Texans have racked up gobs of coverage sacks.

Dalton is willing to hang in there against the blitz (worth noting is that last time these teams met, Phillips was more aggressive than usual, occasionally playing Cover 0 and bringing the entire gauntlet of defenders). He’s been just a tad inconsistent in his precision accuracy the last few games, and he quietly struggled throughout the year on deep balls. These issues, however, have not derived from hasty or flawed mechanics and aren’t prominent enough for a defense to intentionally exploit.

Green and Joseph will square off again in the playoffs. (Getty Images)

3. Johnathan Joseph on A.J. Green
The Bengals passing attack centers around the downfield acrobatics of A.J. Green. They take several deep shots a game with the rookie Pro Bowler – often off play-action from run formations – and have him clear out coverage for the underneath receivers in the flats.

Interestingly, Green will be guarded by Johnathan Joseph, the sensational ex-Bengals corner who’s now the fulcrum of Houston’s coverage schemes. Joseph is arguably the premier deep ball defender in the NFL. That’s a big reason why he’s in the select group of corners who truly shadow the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver week in and week out.

Joseph’s unique talent lends multiplicity and versatility to the rest of Houston’s secondary. That’s something Dalton and his ancillary targets must adjust to (one-on-one coverage for Jerome Simpson is not guaranteed this Saturday). The Joseph-Green matchup could very well decide the outcome. The last bout was a draw; Green finished with just 59 yards receiving but did have a tremendous 36-yard touchdown.

4. Bengals D vs. T.J. Yates
Even though it was Yates’ first start on the road, Gary Kubiak did not keep tight reigns on his fifth-round rookie quarterback at Cincinnati. He ran Houston’s regular passing attack, which is built around play-action off the stretch handoff (see: below), screens and downfield crossing patterns that attack man-to-man or Cover 3 (a zone the Bengals commonly play against base offensive personnel).

If you could characterize Gary Kubiak’s offense in one snapshot, this would be it. This is the stretch handoff, the most potent play in Houston’s zone run game. We froze the shot here because it’s indeterminable whether it’s a run or a play-action pass. Look at the Bengals back level defenders. The linebackers (53 Thomas Howard and 58 Rey Maualuga) have no choice but to flow right; the defensive backs are playing back and not attacking the run or their receiver.

The stretch handoff forces an entire defense to pause before committing to an attack. It presents a more dynamic play-action element because when it’s finally revealed whether the quarterback handed the ball off or kept it himself, the play has been unfolding for nearly two seconds (much longer than a traditional play-action). By this point, if it’s a handoff, the offensive linemen are further down their run-blocking paths; if it’s a pass, the receivers are further into their routes. Thus, any defenders who misdiagnoses the play is caught even further out of position than usual.

This is the case if the stretch play is executed well. As an offense, the risk is that when your stretch play is executed poorly, the drawn-out time elements work just as potently against you, as defenders that easily sniff out what you’re doing now have more time to react.

Kubiak trusted Yates to make plays; aside from a few short-armed throws, Yates responded extremely well. He exhibited his quick release, poise in the pocket and patience in progressions, completing 26 of 44 for 300 yards and engineering a brilliant 13-play, 80-yard game-winning touchdown drive.

Since then, Yates’ confidence has led to a few bad decisions. He had two atrocious interceptions in the loss to Carolina and did not push the ball downfield the next week when Indianapolis’ defense took away the crossing routes and rollout passes. There’s no telling how Yates might respond to unfamiliar looks in a playoff game.

A deep, lively defensive line has allowed Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to drift away from some of the high-risk pressure concepts that have long defined his system, but don’t be surprised if Zimmer throws a few safety/corner blitzes at the rookie on Saturday.

5. Texans zone run game
Even if they’re confident in Yates and finally have Andre Johnson at full force, the Texans will center their offensive attack around the ground game. Their front five is by far the best zone-blocking unit in the league – LT Duane Brown, C Chris Myers and RT Eric Winston have all had Pro Bowl caliber seasons – and they have the AFC’s best all-around runner in Arian Foster.

Compact 220-pound backup Ben Tate can also move the chains. The Bengals have a staunch run defense, thanks to meaty nose tackle Domata Peko and the great one-on-one play of his sidekick Geno Atkins. They also benefit from the athleticism at linebackers and the superb outside tackling of cornerback Nate Clements.

However, this defense did give up a big run to Ben Tate in Week 14 and got burned on huge runs by Ray Rice (who plays in a zone scheme similar to Houston’s) in both losses to Baltimore.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Wild Card games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 10:23 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:47 pm
 

2012 NFL Postseason Awards

Brees and Rodgers could square off three times this year, if you count awards. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We won't bore you by listing our preseason predictions (you can read those here), but suffice to say, all of mine were correct. Take a peak at the midseason hardware if you want too, but right now we're interested in dishing out the awards for the full season.


Speaking of which, I've already ranted on Drew Brees vs. Aaron Rodgers for the MVP, but I find it fascinating that at midseason, no one even picked Brees for Offensive Player of the Year, much less MVP. I'm not here to knock Brees, I'm just saying the award's for an entire season's worth of work.

Anyway, below are our full season picks. (You can also read Pete's full season picks here and Clark's full season picks here.)

Most are obvious but "BFA" is "Best Free Agent Addition," "WFA" is "Worst Free Agent Addition," and "DOH!" is "Pick I'd Like to Have Back." (Haha, yes I did pick the guy who eventually iced his own kicker to win "Coach of the Year." At least I was driving the Camwagon though.)

Dive in below and leave your gripes and complaints in the comments.

Award Brinson
Wilson
Katzowitz
Prisco
Judge
MVP
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers
OPOY
Drew Brees Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Drew Brees Drew Brees
DPOY
Jared Allen Terrell Suggs Jared Allen Jason Pierre-Paul Jared Allen
OROY
Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton
DROY
Von Miller Aldon Smith Aldon Smith Von Miller Von Miller
COY
Marvin Lewis Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh
ASST
Rob Chudzinski Rob Chudzinski Wade Phillips Wade Phillips Wade Phillips
BFA
Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles
WFA
Sidney Rice Braylon Edwards Santonio Holmes Ray Edwards Ray Edwards
Comeback
Steve Smith D'Qwell Jackson Aaron Maybin Matthew Stafford Matthew Stafford
Most Improved
Matthew Stafford Antonio Brown Victor Cruz Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski
Surprise
Bengals Broncos Broncos Bengals 49ers
Disappoint
Eagles Jets Eagles Eagles Eagles
Executive
Rick Smith Rick Smith Rick Smith Martin Mayhew Mike Brown
DOH!
Garrett for COY Rivers for MVP Rivers for MVP Fins in/Lions out Rams in NFCW

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Posted on: January 1, 2012 10:13 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 10:05 am
 

2012 NFL Wild Card/Divisional Playoff Schedule

By Will Brinson

The NFL announced the schedule for the first two rounds of the 2012 playoffs on Sunday night.

Here's all you need to know:

NFL Wild Card Weekend

Saturday, January 7
AFC: 4:30 PM (ET) -- Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (NBC)
NFC: 8:00 PM (ET) -- Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints (NBC)

Sunday, January 8
NFC: 1:00 PM (ET) -- Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants (FOX)
AFC: 4:30 PM (ET) -- Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (CBS)

NFL Divisional Playoffs

Saturday, January 14
NFC: 4:30 PM (ET) -- New Orleans/Dallas-N.Y. Giants/Atlanta at San Francisco (FOX)
AFC: 8:00 PM (ET) -- Denver/Pittsburgh/Cincinnati at New England (CBS)

Sunday, January 15
AFC: 1:00 PM (ET) -- Houston/Denver/Pittsburgh at Baltimore (CBS)
NFC: 4:30 PM (ET) -- Dallas-N.Y. Giants/Atlanta/Detroit at Green Bay (FOX)

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Posted on: December 30, 2011 9:31 am
 

Pick-Six Podcast: Herzlich + Week 17 film room

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The holiday season's had us off our game when it comes to podcasting (you try talking into a microphone when you've got 14 family members screaming in the background), but we've got a long one to get you through your Friday right now.

Andy Benoit joins Will to break down the NFC East "championship game" on Sunday night and compare/contrast Eli Manning and Tony Romo.

Ryan then chats up Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich about his first year in the NFL, being in the thick of a playoff hunt and how his work with Gatorade prepared him for the NFL.

Then Will and Andy break down all the remaining big games and discuss whether the Bengals can upset the Ravens, if the Jets are actually worthy of the playoffs, if the Broncos deserve to get beat by Kyle Orton, if Cam Newton's first year is the best rookie season ever, and much more.

Finally, Wilson talks to Michael David Smith of PFT about the Lions finally making it back to the playoffs and the week that was in the NFL. It's a jam-packed, holiday bonus show.

Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?

If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.



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Posted on: December 28, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Bengals sell out Ravens game, second of the year

One of few loyal fans in Cincy these days. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

It took a buy-one-get-one-free tickets deal to make it happen, but the Bengals have sold out their Week 17 matchup against Baltimore, the team announced on Wednesday.

Week 16 Recap

This will make just the second home game this season that will be televised locally.

"Our fans have made a tremendous response this week to our sales efforts, and we thank the entire community for its support of the Bengals," Bengals Executive VP Katie Blackburn said in a statement released by the team. "We’re pleased that the game will be on television for everyone, and we look forward to the fans at Paul Brown Stadium giving us a great home field advantage for a very important game against Baltimore."

The Bengals have a win-and-in situation against the Ravens on Sunday; beating their AFC North rival guarantees them a wild-card berth in the playoffs.

That, coupled with the young nucleus of talent in Cincinnati and a winning record this season, is what makes the lack of tickets sold in Cincinnati so surprising.

Our own Gregg Doyel believes it's not the team, it's owner Mike Brown. Doyel might be onto something -- there's one constant with the Bengals over the course of many losing seasons, and that's Brown.

But on Sunday, at least, the fans will get a chance to see something quite rare in the Brown era: the Bengals clinching a playoff spot.

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Posted on: December 26, 2011 12:11 pm
 

Bengals offer buy-1, get-1 free tix for Week 17

One of few loyal fans in Cincy these days. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Bengals have been one of the best stories of 2011, winning enough games so far to set them up for a win-and-they're-in situation against the Ravens in Week 17. (As noted at our playoff scenario home, Cincy's in if the Jets and Raiders both lose too.) But not enough people are taking notice, and Cincy's still struggling to fill Paul Brown Stadium.

Week 16 Recap

To make up for the woeful attendance (and to avoid a local blackout), the Bengals are offering a buy-one, get-one free ticket special between now and Sunday's game, an unheard of special for an NFL game. Oh, and the players are begging the fans to show up too.

"I just want to thank the fans who were out there today,” defensive lineman Domata Peko said, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We really felt you guys out there, and that helped us out big time. I really want to encourage all of the Cincinnati fans to come out and cheer us on as we try to make the playoffs."

You can't really blame the Bengals, though. On October 2, 41,142 people showed up to see Cincy play the Bills and it was the smallest crowd in regular-season history for the stadium. That was the third time in 2011 there were less than 42,000 folks at Paul Brown, including this past Saturday, when only 41,273 people showed up despite the Bengals battling for the playoffs.

Here's an alternate suggestion if the sale doesn't work out: just have Jerome Simpson do flips into the end zone at halftime.

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Posted on: December 25, 2011 5:47 pm
 

Jerome Simpson's flip 'came on instinct'

By Josh Katzowitz

By now, I imagine you’ve seen the flip heard ‘round the world when receiver Jerome Simpson somersaulted over Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington and very nearly stuck the landing for the 19-yard  touchdown during Cincinnati's victory. If not, take a gander.







It was a thrill for just about everybody watching the game live -- and seeing it on replay was nearly as impressive -- but it was awfully cool for Simpson as well (even Washington laughed about it afterward).

“It was one of things that just came (on) instinct. I just wanted to make a play for my team and get in the end zone,” Simpson said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It seemed like he was going to hit me and I didn’t want to get hit, and I used my athletic ability and my jumping ability.”

And apparently, his gymnastics ability. One criticism, though. His left hand definitely touched the turf to keep himself upright after he completed the flip. There’s no judge in the world that would give him a perfect mark for that imperfection. Even Simpson realizes that.

“Yeah, that was one of the key points (of the play), me sticking the landing,” he said. “I don’t think if I stuck the landing, it wouldn’t have been as exciting. But you know, I stuck the landing like a gymnast. A lot of the guys gave me a (perfect) ‘10’ on it. I think it was like a 9 maybe, because I touched the ground (with my hand) a little bit.”

Even so, Simpson’s 9 is better than most everybody else can accomplish. So, kudos to Simpson on one of the most exciting plays in the NFL this season. Let’s just hope next time, he doesn’t need a hand to steady himself.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com