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WhoDey Delights

Thought and discussion centered around the Cincinnati Bengals from somebody who's never given up, from John Copeland all the way to Andy Dalton. Preview of each game and the opponent and a wrap up each week after the game. I also discuss the fantasy prospects for the team as the season progresses.

Bengals in The Playoffs!! Numbers and Matchups vs Texans

The sixth-seed Bengals will play at the three-seed Houston Texans in the AFC-wild card round at 4:30 Saturday on the first Saturday of 2012 2013.  Deja Vu!!  As opposed to last season, the Texans enter this game struggling and the Bengals enter the playoffs on a roll.  The Texans are playing this week after having lost home-field advantage by losing three of the last four, including last week at Indianapolis.  The resurgent Bengals were left for dead after week 9, finding themselves 3-5 before winning 7 of their last 8 to get to 10-6.  The Texans won decisively in the wild-card faceoff last season behind J.J. Watt's breakout performance.  Have the Bengals improved enough to get Marvin Lewis his first playoff win and the first Bengal playoff win since 1990?  Time to find out!!

0: Number of playoff wins for Marvin Lewis and number of playoff starts for Texans QB Matt Schaub. 

1: Career playoff starts for Andy Dalton and career playoff wins for Texans' coach Gary Kubiak, and we all remember that one.  Also, number of touchdowns Texans QB has thrown in the last four games, including two against the pourous Colts defense.  Don't get too excited Bengal fans, also the number of offensive touchdowns for the Bengals in the last two games.

6:  Number of road wins for the Bengals this season.  Also the number of AFC home wins for the Texans this season, making them undefeated against the AFC at home.

22:  Years since last Bengals playoff win.  Ironically, that win was also against Houston. Oops, I meant the Houston Oilers.

32: Percent conversion on third down for the Texans in the second half of the season.  Even lower on 3rd down and 3 or more.  Keep Foster in check and let third down dictate itself.

The Cheesehead Clash: Texans DT J.J. Watt vs Bengals RG Kevin Zeitler

University of Wisconsin alums Watt and Zeitler will match up in what could be the battle that determines the fate of the Bengals' O for the day.  Outstanding rookie Zeitler will try to keep probable NFL Defensive Player of the Year Watt from having a game similar to the breakout game he had last season in the playoffs.  Watt's game has only improved, challenging the single-season sack record but falling just short.

Bengals New vs Old: A.J. Green vs CB Jonathan Joseph

Bengals fans remember Joseph, who left more money on table to sign in Houston before the 2011 season.  Joseph is finally healthy for the first time all season, and needs to be 100% to have a chance at containing Green, who enjoys a full five-inch height advantage over Joseph.  Joseph is one of the best cover corners in the NFL nevertheless, and Green will need his best effort along with a little more accuracy from QB Andy Dalton to lead the Bengals down the field.

Matt Schaub vs Bengals Defensive Line

Savvy veteran QB Matt Schaub will start his first playoff game against the outstanding Bengals defensive line.  The defense had a club record 51 sacks on the season, and even more impressive is the fact that 38 of those sacks came without any blitz.  This tells us the d-line is getting outstanding pressure on the QB and is allowing the rest of the defense to play coverage.  Schaub comes into the game struggling but is always a threat. 

Illegal Arian:  Geno Atkins and the Bengals Defensive Line vs. RB Arian Foster

No doubt, Arian Foster is an all-world RB.  However, the Texans run game has not been the guarantee it was in the season's opening half.  The consistent pressure that Atkins and the defense get on the opposing o-line does not bode well for Foster either.  Atkins should have his way with Texans offensive linemen Ben Jones and Chris Myers.  In the month of December, the Bengals completely shut down running backs Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Mathews, and DeMarco Murray.  These guys may be a notch below Foster, but it does say that Foster can at least be contained by this defense even if it cannot completely shut him down.  Just one discouraging note, as good as the Bengals interior defense was, it was horrible on 3rd and short runs up the middle.

Texan vs Texans:  Andy Dalton vs Houston defense

Katy, TX native Andy Dalton struggled in last year's game and has really struggled throughout the second half of this season.  Though the Bengals offensive line is better matched up this time around, the Texans defense stands an excellent chance of making Dalton's Saturday afternoon miserable. In the absence of LB Brian Cushing, Brady Jackson has been nothing short of outstanding. One of Dalton's biggest faults is trying to force the ball to covered receivers and the Texans have the personnel to make him pay dearly for those decisions. DB's Joseph, Kareem Jackson, and Daniel Manning have all returned INT's for TD's this season, and don't forget Manning's stellar game against the Bengals in last year's playoff game.  

Not So Golden Graham:  Bengals Fan Base vs man who has no soul Shayne Graham

The red-headed kicker who singlehandedly eliminated the Bengals from getting to the 2006 playoffs will be doing the placekicking for the Texans this weekend.  If it's a close game, history will definitely favor the Bengals.  The man who has no soul has never made a clutch kick, even if he is still the most overrated supposed accurate kicker in NFL history.  That said, I'm hoping the Bengals have a comfortable lead and don't have to worry about a Graham game-winning field goal.  That very thing could be what finally sends me over the edge.

All in all, these two teams are similar in a lot of terms at this point.  The difference is the general direction in which these teams appear to be headed.  Both teams have struggling offenses with a superstar (Foster, Green).  Both have high-ranking NFL defenses (Bengals 6th, Texans 7th) and are dominant up front (Watt, Atkins).  In my opinion, one more year of experience and positive momentum are enough to usurp home field advantage and a team stuck in neutral if not reverse.  This sets up to be the game the young Bengals shed the up-and-coming label and have a coming out party of their own.  There is too much talent on this team to be satisfied with simply making playoff appearances.   If the Bengals can get the Texans into third and long and eliminate the play-action as the Colts, Vikings, and Patriots were able to do, the Bengals can win this game. I'm banking on having a game to preview next week. WHO DEY!!!

Bengals 21 Texans 13

Quick Primer on the 2012 Bengals for The Uninitiated

For the third time in four seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals are playoff bound.  For the second straight season, the Bengals will play as the sixth seed at Houston at 4:30 Eastern time Saturday with a 10-6 record.  Deja vu it may seem, but this Bengals team is a somewhat different version of last year's team that went to the playoffs and melted down in the second half against J.J. Watt and the Texans.  Because the Bengals aren't a household name and not chock full of fantasy football stars, it's my pleasure to offer you the reader a quick primer on the Bengals so you can impress your friends Saturday afternoon wherever you may be watching the game.

A.J. Green-the team's unquestioned best player who made the leap to superstar in his sophmore season.  Watch Green and appreciate the acrobatics/athleticism he displays hauling in passes that don't necessarily hit him in stride.  He can catch a high pass with the best of them.  I've previously mentioned it, but to get to know Green better, check out this New York Times piece on Green.

Andy Dalton-the Bengals second-year, second-round quarterback.  Dalton has commanded the huddle from day 1 of his NFL career.  After starting the season strong, Dalton has really struggled over the month of December.  Usually efficient but rarely spectacular, Dalton's smart play makes great use of Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden's West Coast offense in spite of what many believe is Dalton's limited arm strength. 

Coordinators-OC Gruden and Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer have both been spectacular making a team of mostly unwanted parts and meshing them into a team greater than the sums of its parts.   Both, particularly Zimmer, will be in the discussion for the six head coaching positions available once the season concludes.  The sometimes-abrasive Zimmer has been building these kinds of defenses for a long time, while Gruden is finishing his second season running the Bengals offense.

Geno Atkins-the Bengals other Pro Bowler.  Along with the Texans' J.J. Watt, this game will feature two of the top three interior defensive lineman in the NFL.  Atkins has supassed fellow 2010 draftee Carlos Dunlap on the way to the top of the league with 12.5 sacks this season.  Having lost draft status because of work ethic issues, Atkins has decided he wants to be great and this is the year he exploded into the NFL elite. 

Josh Brown-at the start of December, Brown was among the kickers with no team trying out with whoever was in need.  When Bengals kicker Mike Nugent went down with a practice injury, Brown was signed and has done nothing but pay dividends.  His end-of-game kick that sent the Bengals into the postseason will be on every highlight reel of the season.

Vontaze Burfict-had Burfict left for the draft after his sophmore season at Arizona State, he would have gone Top-15.  After a so-so junior season and an abysmal draft combine, Vontaze was looking in from the outside following the 2012 draft.  Marvin Lewis decided he was worth the gamble, and the Bengals have won big thus far.  Burfict has shown steady improvement as the season has progressed and has the look of a young LB headed to multiple Pro Bowls down the road.

Secondary-Flanking Burfict are steady vet Rey Maualuga, who bounced back from from a below-average 2011 season nicely, and 49ers castoff Manny Lawson.  The backfield consists of mostly castoffs.  Mike Zimmer has gotten everything that's left of CB's Terrence Newman and Nate Clements this season.  Leon Hall has bounced back nicely from last season's ACL tear but is not quite the elite corner he was before the injury.  Jaguars-castoff safety Reggie Nelson has been one of the better safeties in the league since coming to the Bengals and I personally think he was jobbed out of a Pro Bowl spot.

The Bengals second receiver-between TE Jermaine Gresham and WR's Andrew Hawkins, Marvin Jones, Ryan Whalen, and Brandon Tate, one of these guys will emerge as Andy Dalton's top target apart from A.J. Green.  Gresham is usually good for three catches over the middle from Dalton, but one of the other receivers will set themselves apart from the others in this game as they have in the others.  Who that will be is a guess.

RB Benjarvis Green-Ellis and the offensive line-RB Benjarvis Green-Ellis started the season horribly but had a stellar second half on his way to a 1200-yard season and helping the Bengals win 6 of their last 7.  Look for Green-Ellis to go the right side often, as rookie RG Kevin Zeitler and RT Andre Smith "yes the guy who had the flabby run in the video on Hard Knocks" will open up big holes for Law Firm. C Trevor Robinson has outplayed Kyle Cook in Cook's absence and I hope to see more of Robinson Saturday.  LG Clint Bolilng has been excelllent in the absence of Trevelle Wharton and LT Andrew Whitworth is the heart-and-soul of the line if not the offensive unit.  Either way he is an established team leader and a great tackle at that.

Head Coach Marvin Lewis-finishing his tenth season as Bengals head coach, Lewis will coach the Bengals in the playoffs for the fourth time in his tenure and for the third time in four seasons.  Lewis calls this his third rebuild of the Bengals and this is the one most suited to his style.  Now the second-most tenured coach in the NFL, Lewis is still searching for his first playoff win, for that matter the first playoff game with a chance to win it at the end.  Lewis was nearly fired following the 2010 nightmare season but has bounced back with two straight playoff appearances.  The most successful coach in Bengals history, fans are waiting for Lewis to take this team that holds so much promise into a playoff run of any sort and shed the up-and-coming label.

There you have it, the not-as-quick-as-I-thought intro to the 2012 Bengals.  Coming up soon will be a closer look at the matchups in the game.  Enjoy the game, here's to you being impressed by this young Bengals team and getting on the bandwagon. I hope Who Dey becomes a part of your everyday vocabulary.  Who Dey!!!

Bengals Week 17 Scoreboard Watching Guide

On Sunday, the Bengals and Ravens will do battle in a game that has no bearing on the Bengals status as the low AFC playoff seed with all games on the road.  The Ravens have a small chance to move into the third AFC playoff seed but that rests partly on the Patriots losing at home to the Dolphins (I don't see it happening either) and the Ravens beating the Bengals Sunday.  Though it has no bearing on next week, the Bengals need to win this game.  The Bengals have a lot of momentum going for them, having won 6 of 7 with a huge win at Pittsburgh last week.  This team is too young to ease up on the throttle and expect it to bounce right back the next weekend.  In addition, the Bengals will want to put on a great show for the sold-out crowd at Paul Brown Stadium in the team's 2012 finale.  So assuming the Bengals beat the Ravens, the question becomes, who should Bengal fans be hoping to play in the first round?  As it stands now, the Bengals will play at New England, with at Denver a possibiliy, and at Houston a longshot.   If we match the Bengals' strengths against the three possible playoff opponents, does one of the teams appear a better matchup for the Bengals? 

Geno Atkins and the Pass Rush

Geno Atkins may have had his breakout game against the Steelers last week, and is now getting attention that is well-deserved.  After blowing up Ben Roetlisberger last week, Atkins and the Bengals D-line will find the path to the quarterback a lot less easy against any of the three playoff opponents.  Denver has allowed its quarterback to be sacked just 21 times, compared to 24 for Houston and 26 for New England.  This makes the statement that great teams protect their QB's,  for they are also the top three in the AFC in terms of not allowing QB sacks.  By comparison, Andy Dalton has been sacked an AFC third-worst 44 times. Of note is that the Broncos have allowed Peyton Manning to be hit just 45 times, compared to 65 and 71 for the other contenders.   This basically means one extra hit a game, which almost seems insignificant in a one-game scenario.  Putting all this together we see that none of the opponents present a great chance for Atkins to dominate.  No advantage.

All-Universe WR A.J. Green vs the Opposing Pass Defense

First, if you haven't read this week's New York Times piece on A.J. Green, read it now!! Second, Green proved last week that great players show up when the game is on the line.  Now we ask, does the pass defense of one of the possible opponents give Green a better chance of being the man who beats the man down the stretch?  The Patriots have allowed an AFC-worst 349 receptions.  Granted, this is a stat that can be somewhat skewed as opposing teams throw more when teams like the Pats get a big lead.  Nevertheless, the Broncos allowed 314 receptions and the Texans just 294.  What really stands out is this:  the Patriots allowed opposing receivers a AFC-worst-by-far 70 receptions of 20 yards or more.  That's basically 5 a game.  That gets this fan having plum dreams of Green streaking down the sideline and Dalton finding him for 25-yard gains.  Yes I know it's hard to see the Bengals doing this to the Pats, but the stats support it.  To top that number off, the Pats also allowed an AFC-worst 27 receiving touchdowns.  I know it gets me excited too.  Advantage:  Play the Patriots.

RB Benjarvis Green-Ellis vs the Opposing Run Defense

A catalyst for the Bengals late-season success, the Law Firm won't find easy running lanes against any of the three opponents.  The Broncos allowed an AFC-low 3.6 yards per carry, and the Patriots were the only one of the three to allow over 4 yards per carry on average.  Tied for the league lead with the Broncos are the Steelers, and Green-Ellis turned in a career-worst performance last week against Pittsburgh, getting less than a yard per carry.  Last week, the Texans shut down Adrian Peterson, and with no insult intended, Green-Ellis is nowhere near Peterson's 2012 season.  In week 9 against the Broncos, BJGE played his last bad game until last week's stinker against the Steelers.  Put all of this together, and though it's not easy to run against any of the three, it appears a little easier to run on the Patriots.  Advantage:  Play the Patriots

Bengals Suspect Pass Defense vs Opposing Quarterback

Here is where it gets murky.  We know that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as future Hall-of-Famers and both are having seasons typical of their pedigrees.  We've seen both QB's carve the Bengals up over the last decade and that the Bengals have never beaten either of them.  Both are dominating the passing stat categories like normal.  What you may not know is this:  Behind the Patriots and Broncos, the Texans are third in the AFC in yards per attempt, a much better measure of how efficiently a team passes the ball than sheer yardage.  Schaub doesn't possess the gaudy numbers of the other QB's but he doesn't need them so long as RB Arian Foster is beside him in the backfield running like crazy.  Schaub also possesses WR Andre Johnson,proven Bengal-killer who surpasses any receiver on either team even though he may be on the downside of a superstar career.  Yes, it would probably better suit Leon Hall and Co. to play the Texans but it's not as big an advantage as it initially appears.  Advantage:  Play the Texans but it's not as big as it appears.

Other Considerations

The Patriots needed last-second heroics to fend off Jacksonville, Denver demolished Cleveland, and Houston got wiped out at home by the Vikings.  Advantage:  Avoid the Broncos.

It's wintertime and the Bengals don't play well in the cold.  Houston is indoors, New England and Denver could be brutal.  Advantage:  Play the Texans.

Road trip for optimistic Bengals fan:  There's nothing all right about New England in January.  There's nothing all right about Houston anytime.  Denver is always cool and it's ski season.  Advantage:  Big advantage play the Broncos.

In summary, the only reason to play the Broncos involves ski bunnies.  The Broncos are not the same team who came from behind and beat the Bengals, they look like legit Super Bowl contenders.  Though Houston would seem the best bet initially, remember J.J. Watt had his breakout game against the Bengals in the playoffs last season. Don't forget the score of last year's playoff game: the Bengals are improved but are they that much better than last season?   Even without LB Brian Cushing, the Bengals will have a hard time moving the ball against the Texans, especially since the Bengals haven't had tons of success moving the ball against anyone in the month of December.  As hard as it is to say so, the Bengals best matchup may be against the Patriots.  Believe me, that seems impossible to say.  Remember, this team lost at home to the Cardinals and the big win over the Texans notwithstanding, has been very average in December.  That said, I'll be rooting for the Texans and Broncos to win.  This would mean a win over New England would put the Bengals at Texans in the next round.  It doesn't hurt to dream does it?

If you have an interesting New Year's Resolution, pass it along and I'll mention it here or on the radio somewhere.  Happy New Year!! Enjoy the night responsibly and enjoy Sunday's game.  We get to talk football for at least one more week.  Who Dey!!