There’s no such thing as an ugly win or a pretty loss. The Bengals have played two of the teams which most experts have predicted to be division winners and possibly AFC Championship contenders. We are 1-1 (as are the Jets, Pats, Ravens, Chargers, and Colts). On the road against the Pats, we let the game get away from us and watched as a valiant second half effort fall woefully short. At home against the Ravens, we won a smash mouth struggle against a highly touted offense and certainly one of the premier defenses in the league. Of course, I would love to be 2-0 at this point, but looking at our schedule, I never believed that this was likely. 1-1 is not a bad place to be, particularly with a division win under our belt.
I know there is lots of grumbling about the offense and its struggles. Most are justifiable. We need to eliminate turnovers (a problem in the first game, but not the second), eliminate pre-snap penalties (a problem in the second game but not the first), and get better at sustaining drives (too many three and outs, although in both games, the Bengals won the possession clock).
I do concur with the the memo from peko's ponytail that Bengals fans may not have adjusted to this new type of football we have been watching since last year. Low scoring, grind it out, win narrowly, but still win, type ball games. I have often wondered about the collective psyche of Bengals fans, I think we suffer from some sort of post- (or ongoing) traumatic stress from too many heart breaking seasons. Winning seems to cause more angst than losing.
That being said, there are legitimate concerns. I, too, have come to question whether or no Palmer is the “elite” QB that we all want him to be (perhaps more accurately, I am not sure if Palmer is cut out for the type of offense we are running). I remain concerned about our offensive line. I have growing concerns about our offense schemes and game plans. And I really, really, wish we had a safety half as good as Troy Polamalu (did anyone see his goal line tackle on Young? Ridiculous!)
But again, we are 1-1 against two very tough teams--we can play with the "big boys" --and the internal optimist in me thinks that the offense is "closer than we think" to getting where it needs to be. I think much will be decided on these issues in the next 3 weeks. We play Carolina, Cleveland, and Tampa. Three teams, none of which are pushovers, but, which one would consider “mediocre” and probably not playoff bound.
When analyzing our schedule, I felt a 5-1 heading into the bye week was a realistic goal, and in fact, given the remainder of our schedule, a necessary achievement to give us a shot at the playoffs. I stand by that, but we will have to prove that we are “playoff material” by handling the next three weeks and not losing games which we shouldn’t lose. It would be nice if we did it with style points, but I really don’t care as long as we get the "W."