, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s been a long season as a fan of the Bengals, but there is still plenty of entertainment and good football to distract me so onward through week seven of the NFL.

What I Saw

The first game of week seven was a pretty underwhelming Thursday night game that saw the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Denver and beat a confusing Broncos team, breaking the Broncos’ two game winning streak, their own two game losing streak, and proving me wrong for yet another Thursday night game (currently 2-5 this season). What is even more impressive is the Chiefs did this despite Patrick Mahomes being forced out of the game in the second quarter having dislocated his patella during a quarterback sneak. The good news for the team is that the damage is such that he should be able to return with a brace in a few weeks and delay the surgery to the off-season. The even better news for this game was that the Chiefs’ defence was clearly tired of hearing how they couldn’t stop anyone as they held the Broncos to just over two hundred yards of total offence with seventy-one yards rushing on twenty-one carries and one hundred and thirty-four yards passing. whilst sacking Joe Flacco nine times. This was not the high-powered offence overcoming defensive frailties, but a sound team performance that demonstrates how good Andy Reid continues to be at building competitive teams. The Broncos meanwhile, do have problems and I’m not sure how trading away Emmanuel Sanders is going to help, but the real problem is John Elway’s continued inability to find a quarterback outside of signing Peyton Manning. Until Elway finds that franchise QC then a lot of the other problems on the roster will continue to be moot. The reputation that John Elway has in Denver means that even now there does not appear to be a huge amount of pressure on him, but at some point that has to change if the Broncos don’t improve.

The first Sunday game I enjoyed was a tight affair in the first half but the Minnesota Vikings continue to find their form and having soundly beat the Eagles last week, they traveled to Detroit and ran out 42-30 winners in week seven. It would seem that after a slow start the Vikings offence is beginning to find its feet with the new scheme and even losing Adam Thielen to a hamstring injury he picked up making a touchdown scoring catch in the first quarter didn’t slow them down as Kirk Cousins still threw for three hundred yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers. The Vikings defence also managed to limit the Lions’ offence enough that although Matthew Stafford threw for over three hundred and fifty yards himself (making him the fastest QB to forty thousand yards in NFL history), he also added in an interception to his four touchdowns and the Vikings looked pretty comfortable through the second half. I’ll be interested to see how the Vikings go the next few weeks, but if they can keep this balance on offence, that combined with the always tough Zimmer defence should make them a team no one wants to face. Meanwhile, the Lions seem to be able to play teams tough for a while, but they don’t seem to be clinical enough when it counts and with a 2-3-1 record, they need to start winning games and soon if they are going to compete for the playoffs.

I watched the next game because it was one of the most important games of the week in terms of its affect on the involved team’s playoff odds, but it was a one sided affair that saw the Dallas Cowboys run out easy 37-10 winners over the Philadelphia Eagles. It seemed like the Cowboys got a lot of injured players back at just the right time and the Eagles gave up costly turnovers on their opening two drives of the game that saw them fourteen points behind before their offence had even got into the opponents side of the field. If you compare the Eagles record with the Colts over the years since the Eagles won the Super Bowl you can see why some are suggesting that Frank Reich made a big difference for the Eagles when he was on their staff, but this is a team that is fighting injuries and just doesn’t look right. I absolutely thought they had one of the stronger rosters on the league, but there only so many cluster injuries any team can sustain. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have given themselves an edge in the NFC East and will be hoping they can build on it in the coming weeks.

The final game I watched, was the Bengals falling to 0-7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and there’s not a lot to say. The Bengals are a bad team, the offensive line is a mess and Andy Dalton threw three interceptions trying to get the team back in the game but the team can’t run the ball or maintain drives. The defence is no better and I get to find out how bad it looks in person this weekend. The Jaguars are only a win back on the division lead, but they need to find some consistency as Gardiner Minshew needs to adjust now that teams have some tape of him, which in fairness is meant to take some time when you are a quarterback selected in the sixth round. The Jags will be hoping that the defence will be better through the removal of the disgruntaled Jalen Ramsey, but it is a very talented player to lose and we will have to see if the Jags can get into the race for the playoffs or falls out of the race in the next few weeks.

What I Heard

One of the big things that is being discussed at the moment is the number of trades we are seeing across the NFL, particularly as we approach next week’s trade deadline. There has been plenty of talk that given the Bengals position they should be looking to trade away some of their talent and get a jump start on the rebuild. There’s been no sign of that, but there has been plenty of movement, including a number of trades this week with the Seahawks grabbing safety Quandre Diggs from the Lions, the 49ers picking up Emmanuel Sanders from the Broncos, and the Patriots trading for Mohammed Sanu to try to improve their passing attack.

The most convincing explanation I’ve heard regarding this increasing number of tades is that the current generation of NFL GMs are much more transactional and prepared to take risks to improve their team than their risk averse forebears, particularly as if they don’t improve the team quickly there’s no guarantee they’ll get to fix the problem given how quickly a team will change GM.

The approach to talent acquisition was also the focus of a discussion between Peter King and LA Rams GM Les Snead who is deliberately chosing to trade for known quantity players rather than risking picking players in the first round of the draft. Now, that’s an interesting approach, and I keep hearing people saying that teams have the cap space to make more of these moves, but I’m not sure how the Rams will stay competitive given the contracts they have given out to Gurley and Goff, and will need to give to Ramsey unless their plan is to not have expensive first-round draft pick second contracts (that’s a mouthful) to pay. Only time will tell if their sums are right and the plan works, but it is reassuring that there is an overarching strategy –  it doesn’t always feel that way and let’s just see if it works in the coming years.

What I Think

We are now getting to the point of the season where there are some teams who are really beginning to separate themselves. We have two unbeaten teams in the Patriots and 49ers alongside a further two teams with only one loss, which is really impressive of the New Orleans Saints who have won the five games that Teddy Bridgewater has started. A team that loses a Hall of Fame quarterback is not supposed to do that. Meanwhile the scary thing about the other one loss team is that Aaron Rodgers just posted his first, I’m still a dragon stat line of the season.

There are more competitive teams lurking in their divisions, including the Vikings who as I mentioned earlier, look to be coming together. The picks competition might be open to anyone, but there’s a gulf between our actual teams.

What I Know

The Bengals are 0-7, which makes going to see them on Sunday a slightly odd proposition – I was told firmly by Dan that I have to wear my AJ Green jersey but it feels odd when Green is still out injured and it seems highly unlikely that they will beat the Rams. After all, the Bengals are ranked thirty-first overall by DVOA, twenty places and 47.6% below the Rams, which is an even bigger gap than the 34.6% the Bengals are supposedly better than the Dolphins. At this rate both teams really could be 0-15 when they meet in week sixteen.

What I Hope

I’m hoping for a dry Sunday and an entertaining experience, and a better week picking games.