I’ve mentioned a few times this season that the notion of “parity” in the NFL has gone out the window, at least at the present time.
There are dominant teams which almost never lose, like the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers, and clubs which are really only making a passing effort to win (or running up the middle until they lose) like the Miami Dolphins.
But I’ve rarely mentioned the Cincinnati Bengals when the subject of woefully-bad teams comes up. Maybe that’s because everyone has expected the Bengals to be poor for a while. After all, Marvin Lewis coached in Cincinnati for approximately 75 years, and a new era for the franchise may suffer in transition for a while.
Excuses like that only last so long, though – and fans are about ready to give up on the 2019 squad showing any signs of life. The winless Bengals opened as a TD-sized underdog for a visit to the Oakland Raiders this Sunday afternoon – and the point spread has moved into double-digits.
Who: Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders
When: Sunday, November 17th, 4:25 PM EST
Where: RingCentral Coliseum, Oakland, CA
Lines: CIN (+10.5) at OAK (-10.5) / O/U Total: (48.5)
Zac Taylor’s nightmare continues. The head coach takes his 0-9 Bengals to Oakland to face a team which might have looked beatable earlier this year – but not anymore. The 5-4 Raiders have been fantastic while winning back-to-back games against the Chargers and the Lions.
Just as I suspected in late summer, critics of Derek Carr had a field day for a while – and now they’re nice and quiet as Carr is putting together his best season as a pro. The much-maligned QB is completing over 70% of his passes and has tossed 14 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. His 228 3rd-down pass attempts without an INT is the longest such streak in the NFL in the last 25 years.
Raider skipper Jon Gruden has found a gem in rookie tailback Josh Jacobs. The 1st-round pick out of Alabama has been instrumental over the last couple of weeks, rushing 42 times for 191 yards and 3 TD’s. On the season, Jacobs has found pay dirt 7 times, and is averaging 90.1 rushing yards per game.
Oakland’s defense is getting an unexpected boost from the play of a journeyman lineman who has bounced around 4 different teams over his 7 year career. Defensive end Benson Mayowa is now on his 2nd stint in Oakland, but leads the team with 7 sacks this season.
Taylor appears to be sticking with rookie 4th-round pick Ryan Finley at QB over Andy Dalton, despite a 16-for-30 stat line in last week’s 49-13 embarrassment by the visiting Ravens. For some reason, Cincinnati didn’t really toss it around trying to come back, sticking with a conservative offense even while Baltimore romped:
On Cincinnati’s third possession, Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters picked off Finley with under four minutes to go in the second quarter. Peters read Finley’s eyes, interception quarterback’s ball and took it 89-yards to the house for his second pick six as a member of the Ravens. In the third quarter, Finley didn’t read the blitz well and was sacked by Ravens’ Patrick Ricard. As Finley fell to the ground, he fumbled the football and it was picked up by Tyus Bowser for a scoop and score.
Finley and the Bengals did a decent job of moving the football. The rookie led the club on three scoring drives and threw for 158 yards. Yet, as expected, he was overmatched often by Baltimore’s blitz-happy defense. (But) the Bengals’ positive gains running the football carried over to Week 10. After running for his second-best rushing total of the season in London, Mixon had 63 yards in the first half. The running back showed nice burst as he hit open holes hard. Mixon totaled a season-high 114 yards. Week 10 was the sixth time in Mixon’s career that he rushed for at least 100 yards. Cincinnati actually outgained Baltimore running the football. The Bengals had 157 yards to the Ravens’ 136.
The Bengals have been among the worst in the NFL rushing the football this season, and still have yet to score a rushing touchdown. But the fact that coaches stuck to it even in a blow-out loss is actually a nice piece of handicapping info at our disposal.
Cincy is in “let’s build something positive” mode as soon as it falls behind substantially.
The production of some formerly-solid pass rushers has massively declined for the Bengals. Geno Atkins, who has notched at least 9 sacks in each of the last 4 years, has dropped opposing QB’s just 3 times this season. DE Carlos Dunlap has tallied at least 7.5 QB take-downs every year since 2013, but that streak is likely to come to an end, as he has just 1 measly sack thus far in 2019.
The Raiders aren’t above taking the Bengals too lightly, and I’m wary of taking Oakland ATS because everything points to a blow-out win for the Silver & Black…and the players know that going in. NFL athletes are fans too. Cincinnati might take a surprise lead in the 1st half.
But Gruden’s gang will no doubt recover by the end thanks to Carr firing from a well-protected pocket. I’m loving an Oakland live-bet at halftime or simply a wager on the Over.