Big ups to the Cincinnati Bengals! In response to a season opening loss to Denver, courtesy of a last second miracle, the ‘Cardiac Cats’ stand as the hottest one-loss team in the league. Thanks to an evolving defense, a sleeper in running back Cedric Benson and rekindled magic of Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson (I refuse to call him his translation of 85 in Espanola), the Bengals stand atop the AFC North. If for any reason you question the value of the team’s wins, let’s review, shall we? Aside from Cleveland, the Bengals beat projected AFC North winners Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and snatched a victory from Green Bay in Lambeau. As if the aforementioned factors weren’t enough to place the NFL community on notice, another factor came into play recently and it has nothing to do with Xs and Os. On October 8th, Vikki Zimmer, wife of 27 years to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, passed away. While the cause of death has yet to be determined, Cincinnati knew it had to answer the rally cry of one of its leaders. Maybe I’m reading too deep into this, but I have a feeling that the will to “Fight for Mike” is going to run beyond last week’s upset over the Ravens. Please allow me to express my deepest condolences to the Zimmer family and the Cincinnati organization. Winning may not cure the ills of such a lost, but it’ll at least make the journey easier for Coach Zimmer. Without falling too deep into melancholy, on to the games:
Bengals over Texans– “Who Dey” thought Cincinnati would lead its division? Nooooobody! Houston’s rush defense is 26th in stopping the run and Cedric Benson currently leads the league in rushing yards and is playing for a new contract. Talk about disparity!
Packers over Lions– I can’t imagine how much Aaron Rodgers wanted to beat Brett Favre two Monday nights ago, but coming off a bye week, I’m sure he’s going to take his frustrations out on a Detroit team riddled with injuries.
Jaguars over Rams– After suffering humiliation at the hands of the Seahawks, Jacksonville is looking to redeem itself in bully like fashion against St. Louis.
Ravens over Vikings– Brett Favre will face his toughest defense to date. Yes, he and Ray Lewis will have an on-field chess match, but there’s another pawn that will force Farve into calamity…Ed Reed.
Saints over Giants– New York has been unreal, however, in successive weeks, the G-Men’s offense lit up the scoreboard against the 21st, 28th, 31st and 32nd ranked defenses. New Orleans’ unit is sixth. Oh yeah, remember Jeremy Shockey? You think he doesn’t have vengeance on the brain?
Steelers over Browns– Congratulations Cleveland, you got your first win. Too bad six points won’t be enough to start a winning streak.
Panthers over Buccaneers– Carolina, like Cleveland, also earned its first win. The result will end differently in this one because the Panthers have the fortune of facing an opponent that IS struggling in all facets of the game.
Chiefs over Redskins– With the exception of one game, Kansas City has shown a competitive fire in every contest. Washington’s lack of execution leads me to believe that it will give yet another winless team its first win of the season.
Eagles over Raiders– Didn’t I say Donovan McNabb would come back and show us he is not to be forgotten? Look for his “What’s My Name” tour to continue in Oakland.
Seahawks over Cardinals– Note to self…stay on top of the injury reports. Whatever hopes I had of Seattle losing to Jacksonville were shattered by Matt Hasselbeck’s triumphant return. The Seahawks know how to protect home field and I expect that tradition to continue.
Patriots over Titans– While New England is a shell of its former self, Tennessee is falling into the abyss. The Titans are not getting it done offensively. The trade deadline is October 20th. Will Tennessee make a move for a deep threat receiver? Will Vince Young get the nod to start, or will this organization concede the season and build from the 2010 draft?
Jets over Bills– Unless something is going on that isn’t being publicized, I can’t fathom why Terrell Owens isn’t being used correctly in Buffalo. What I do know is Gang Green, which uses its offensive weapons, will not go on a three game losing streak.
Falcons over Bears– Although Jay Cutler is coming into his own in Chicago, Atlanta’s offense is more established.
Broncos over Chargers– Okay Denver, it took five weeks, but I’m sipping your Kool-Aid. You have responded to your tumultuous offseason with wins. Your coach is vibrant and your players have bought into him, including Brandon Marshall, who went from wanting out of the Mile High city to hugging Josh McDaniel after games.
For the third straight week, I went on a decline, finishing at 8-6. That puts me at 50-26, which is commendable, but not acceptable for my standards. These teams are making it a challenge to achieve weekly, double-digit wins, but it’s not impossible. I’ll be back in familiar territory. As always, enjoy the games and we’ll pick it up in another week.
By Antoine Hoffman