CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 24: Jerome Simpson #89 of the Cincinnati Bengals jumps over Daryl Washington #58 of the Arizona Cardinals for a 19-yard touchdown during first half action at Paul Brown Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Even though Jerome Simpson is the Cincinnati Bengals' No. 2 receiver and has started in 13 of the team's 15 games so far this season, when you look at his career on a whole, from 2008 to 2011, he has done next to nothing. After four years he still hasn't broken the 1,000-yard mark, something that A.J. Green was able to do in 15 games of his rookie season, and he has less than 10 touchdowns (seven). He only caught one pass for two yards in his first two years on the team until he exploded in the final three games of the 2010 season.
Many thought that one of his problems was the fact that he was always stuck behind guys like Chad Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Laveranues Coles or Terrell Owens. Others thought that he had trouble learning the playbook. Whatever it was, the coaches decided to give Simpson the thumbs up before the 2011 season when they traded Chad Ochocinco to the Patriots.
2011 has been Simpson's best season so far, but despite the fact that he scored one of the most impressive touchdowns ever seen in Week 15, he has been inconsistent. If the Bengals don't win on Sunday and they're eliminated from the playoffs, Simpson will be a free agent. He may not have played well enough through the first 16 weeks of the season to earn a new contract with the Bengals, but a big Week 17 against the Ravens could end the season on a high not and set Simpson up with a career in the NFL either in Cincinnati or somewhere else.
Simpson has a good history against the Ravens. In the two games he has played against them, he has 275 yards receiving and a touchdown. A similar game could not only help the Bengals win on Sunday and get into the playoffs, but it would send a message to the team's front office, and every front office around the league, that he belongs in the NFL.
The NFL is very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-league and if Simpson can really do something big in what could be the last game of his contract with the Bengals, people could forget about the dropped passes and the games in which he seemed to not show up.
Who knows what the Bengals will do at the wide receiver position in 2012. They may re-sign Simpson and they may let him go. We can't forget about the drug investigation either and how that could affect his career. If Simpson finishes the 2011 season on a high note, he could have an easier time signing a contract, even if it isn't with the Bengals. That's why this game is the most important of his four-year career so far.