The Bengals did it. They took all the hope that the San Diego Chargers had about going to the playoffs, killed it and then danced on its grave. Not only did the offense look better than it has throughout the entire season, but they did it without the biggest name players on their roster -- Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson stepped up big time, especially Simpson, and allowed Carson Palmer to have the best game of his career. Too bad it wasn't on TV.
Here's the seven things that stand out to me after the Bengals took down the Chargers 34-20.
Thing I Know One: Simpson had a career game.... by a lot.
Before Sundays game against the Chargers (who came into the game boasting the best pass defense in the NFL) Simpson had three catches in his three year career. Those three catches went for 38 yards and none of them were touchdowns. On Sunday, Simpson had six catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns. He finally showed all of us (or would have if the game wasn't blacked out) what coaches have seen in him over the past couple years when he just soaked up money and a roster spot. He's fast, he can jump, he can catch and, finally, against the Chargers he put it all together. It's very possible that Simpson just saved his career in Cincinnati.
Thing I know Two: Carson Palmer will be Cincinnati's QB in 2011
Considering that the Bengals have effectively eliminated themselves from the Andrew Luck running, I don't think there's any doubt that Palmer is going to stay right where he is next year. Maybe the Bengals draft a Jake Locker or Ryan Mallet in the 2011 draft but even if that's the case, I don't see Palmer going anywhere.
Thing I know Three: Carlos Dunlap is the real deal
He's had five straight games with a sack now. He's making a case to be named in the top two or three defensive rookies in the NFL. He was definitely one of the biggest steals in the 2010 draft.
He's still a rookie.
How is going to be next year with a season of experience under his belt and an off season of workouts? Is he Cincinnati's Dwight Freeney or DeMarcus Ware? It's too early to tell if he's going to be that good but at least I'm not saying no.
Thing I Know Four: A Chad-less win won't help him stay in Cincinnati
First we lost Terrell Owens, then Chad Ochocinco. If you told me that the Bengals would move the ball through the air against the Chargers' top ranked passing defense with Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson before the game on Sunday, I would have laughed in your face and then driven you to the closest mental hospital. Simpson showed us all why the Bengals kept him around and Caldwell didn't fail to impress either.
Ochocinco has stated that he would like to stay in Cincinnati next season but the combination of Simpson's game against the Chargers and the fact that the Bengals have fallen into the A.J. Green area of the draft may cause the Bengals to let Chad walk after the season is over.
Thing I Know Five: The Bengals need a new kicker
I'm assuming that Mike Nugent may get another shot next season but I think it's fairly clear that Clint Stitser isn't going to get it done in the long term. He's fine for now because the Bengals don't have a reason to spend any more money on a kicker but I doubt he'll be around after next week.
Thing I Know Six: Rey Maualuga is going to be the man
By the man, I mean eventual defensive captain. Even though I've always been a huge supporter and fan of Dhani Jones, I have the feeling that his job in Cincinnati is coming to an end and probably sooner rather than later. If that is the case next season, I think Maualuga will likely move into the middle linebacker position, which is where he probably belongs anyways, and could even become a new defensive captain.
I think Dhani Jones has been great in Cincinnati and I'll continue to root for him no matter where he ends up (unless it's Pittsburgh) but I also think that Maualuga is the defensive player that the Bengals will build their future on. Hopefully, he's up to the challenge.
One More Thing I know: A sweep of the Ravens will be a spoon full of sugar for some terrible tasting medicine
The Bengals have a chance to finish the season with a 5-11 record. That's not even close to being as good as I would have liked their record to be. In fact, if it was up to me, the Bengals would be undefeated from here to eternity. Even when the end of the world came, the Bengals would find a way to win. The Bengals would have a record of infinity-0 and the end of the world would be 0-1. Unfortunately, I don't control such things... it's probably better that I don't.
I know that the difference between 4-12 and 5-11 is very small but 5-11 sounds better and become 5-11 would require the Bengals to beat the Ravens which is always a bonus. If they win, they would destroy the Ravens' chances at winning the division -- again... bonus.
So, even though it may drop them out of the top-five draft picks in the 2011 NFL Draft, I would welcome one more win due to the fact that it would be against Baltimore.