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It has been a mixed week for the TWF team with the Bengals getting a statement win on the road against the Ravens to get people talking about them, whilst the Dolphins managed a déjà vu field goal loss against the Falcons against a back drop of trade rumours that I think will worry Dan until we are past the trade deadline next week.

What I Saw

For me there’s only one place to start with the Sunday games that I watched this week and that is in Baltimore. The game started as a tight contest that the Bengals edged out 13-10 at half time, but the Bengals’ offence broke out in the second half as the defence clamped down after an early third quarter touchdown for the Ravens to turn a 17-13 deficit into a 41-17 statement win. Ja’Mar Chase had a two-hundred yard receiving day and the rookie receiver now has the most receiving yards through seven career games of any player in NFL history. The defence is what was winning game initially, but now it feels like both sides of the ball are coming together. The Ravens have no need to panic at 5-2 as there is plenty of season left to go and they have too much experience to fall apart after a bad game, but for now the Bengals deserve to be taken seriously,  although that also involves dealing with expectations so let’s see what happens next week at the Jets.

The other of the early games I watched was the Kansas City Chiefs getting beaten soundly 27-3 by the Tennessee Titans. The thing I didn’t mention on the podcast this week is that it is really hard to get to four Super Bowls in a row, which is what the Chiefs are trying to do this season. It is even harder if you have not nailed your draft picks or all-in moves in free agency. The key players are there, but right now Patrick Mahomes is pushing and turning over the ball in a way he never used to. They need to find some way to exploit more space underneath or to challenge the two high safety looks that they are now seeing regularly as now the offensive production is slipping and the defence shows no sign of improvement. The Titans don’t exactly have a fearsome defence but had more than enough in this one and it was Ryan Tannehill throwing the ball that was as effective as anything on offence for the Titans, although seeing Derick Henry throw a touchdown pass was undeniably fun.

Finally, on Sunday night the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers took on each other and a bomb cyclone in a contest that was understandably heavy on the run game, particularly as at some poins throwing the ball looked like a quarterback’s nightmare brought to life. It’s not that often that you see two running backs from opposing teams run for matching one-hundred and seven yards and a touchdown from eighteen carries, but that’s what the 49ers Elijah Mitchell and Jonathan Taylor managed. The up and down nature of Jimmy Garoppolo season continued as he returned from injury but still hasn’t exactly convinced, while Carson Wentz still tries to do too much and has a nasty habit of in trying to make an impossible play simply giving the ball back to the opposition. The Colts have won three of their last four games after an 0-3 start so their matchup with the 5-2 Titans next week is a pretty huge contest but at least they seem to be finding themselves. As for the 49ers, you are beginning to hear enough questions about the job Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are doing in building this team that there could be questions to face if things don’t start to improve. As good as a play caller as Shanahan is, his career record is 31-39 with only one winning season, though he did take his team to a Super Bow, but if anything it is play of both Garoppolo and Trey Lance that could be seen as the biggest questions for this franchise.

What I Heard

I exist in a state of quantum flux when it comes to discussion of the Deshaun Watson trade rumours, both amazed that any team would consider trading for a player with that litany of complaints and police charges against them and yet simultaneously not at all surprised because patriarchy and football.

One of the teams I didn’t mention on the podcast that has also been floated as a Watson desitination was the Washington Football Team, which I have to think Ron Rivera would oppose given the recent investigations into the Football Team for their toxic work environment, particularly for women. That said, while the NFL through Roger Goodell are stating that they have handled the situation well (there is no report to publish, although they are apparently cooperating with a request from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform for all documents and communications about the investigation into the workplace culture in Washington) you wonder whether Dan Snyder might make the trade, even if he is not running things at the moment..

What I Think

The Detroit Lions may be 0-7, but there are five teams below them in the DVOA rankings and frankly they threw the kitchen sink at the LA Rams on Sunday, made them work and so far this season have only been beaten badly by one team. I don’t think this looks like a winless team, they are still fighting for their coach, and they can perhaps look at the first year of Brian Flores in Miami where the Dolphins also lost their first seven games but closed out the season 5-4. The unfortunate thing for the Dolphins is that after going 10-6 last season, they have not kicked on this season, but to me that hints at how fragile a thing success can be in the NFL.

As a Bengals fan I was hoping for progress coming into the season and prepared for disappointment. I certainly was not expecting a 5-2 start that includes win in Pittsburgh and Baltimore and whilst I’m certainly not expecting the end to one of our two playoff droughts, I can at least dream of it. The Dolphins were unlucky not to get into the playoffs last season with ten wins, but while there are several teams with as bad or longer droughts for appearances, the Bengals, Lions and Dolphins make up the top three longest playoff win drought. The injury to Andy Dalton in 2015 still haunts me as the team who could have been something, particularly as the Bengals haven’t had a winning season since and are without a playoff win in thirty seasons despite Dalton leading the Bengals to the playoffs for five straight seasons from 2011-2015. The Lions’ last winning season was in 2017 and after the spectacular failure of the Matt Patricia tenure the reboot is going to take time and with their one playoff win back in 1991 (a whole season more recent than the Bengals) their drought looks set to  continue for a while. Going into the season the Dolphins would have looked best out of these three teams to end their own playoff win drought, and at twenty seasons they have some time before they catch the Lions and Bengals but this year does not seem destined for them to get that win.

The season is more random for teams than many like to admit, but these long streaks demonstrate that for some teams there are definite patterns, even if they felt more competitive to you as a fan at the time. The Marvin Lewis period transformed the Bengals from and national laughing stock to a credible franchise that included several incredibly talented teams threatening to break the playoff drought but they never quite could. There’s no guarantee that Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase can do better than Andy Dalton and AJ Green, or for that matter Carson Palmer and his talented offence so yes I’m cautious, but I am definitely enjoying the game right now.

What I Hope

I have two hopes this week. I really hope that the Bengals are focussed and beat the Jets to maintain their run as there is a lot of season left and they really can’t afford to drop winnable games. I also hope that the Dolphins give Dan something to be happy about come Monday.

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measuring a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.