It's fair to say sometimes that, overall, we are impressed. Okay, the 3-8 Raiders aren't that good of a team. Neither are the 1-10 Chiefs. The 7-4 Giants didn't look that good the week we played them either. But, hey, when you beat NFL teams over a three week period by an average of 21.3 points, you deserve some credit and praise. It's that simple.
Now, it's still not time to pat ourselves on the back. If we lose a single game moving forward, the playoff chances fall considerably. Two games and it becomes a low yield proposition to be the first back-to-back playoff team since the strike shortened 1982 season that followed the 1981-82 Super Bowl run. That's 30 years ago, so for this franchise the task to get to the playoffs a second consecutive year is monumental. That all said, this team right now can beat anyone in the league. Personally I feel the Texans, Patriots and 49ers would be very tough teams to beat, but worry about that later.
Let's do some more backtracking. For all of us who said this season is over after the Denver loss, put up your hands. That includes me. This winning streak and turnaround is just... just.... non-Bengal-like. There, I said it. But then again, it can all revert to the norm if the team forgets for a minute that you gotta really focus hard to be a winner.
Right now we have guys drinking blood, kicking asses, taking names and not feeling bad about it at all. Just ask Andrew Whitworth who took on a whole pack of Raiders and lived to talk about it.
So yes, I am pumped up. I say let's win the rest of the games this year -- 5 more in regular season and 4 in post-season. You do that one week at a time and not all at once. Onto the categories:
PRIOR 5 OVERRIDING THEMES
1. Leadership... yeah!: Dalton & Maualuga now wearing the Captain monikers. Whitworth showing he's the boss. Guys like Hall, Lawson (this week at least), Geathers & Green-Ellis contributing. Marvin minimizing his bogus field mistakes ... not sure this one can last tho.
2. Defense for real? Hell yeah!: Now ranked #9, this is some sort of turnaround. The team has improved at all three levels. Is there room for better? Of course. Maualuga was a bit off against the Raiders. Burfict hasn't been dominating as much lately. But heck, with Atkins dominating against the run and pass, the LBs aren't getting as many chances. We know that our LBs need improvement. We know that the Safeties need work. But these guys are putting out a 100% effort now, and that's what we need to remember. You can't do more than that. And again, I think Zimmer has finally figured out the potion to make these cats purr.
3. Offense smoking? Boo-yah!: I think the key here is Sanu's play. Now opponents have to worry about the #2 guy getting some targets and doing some damage. Now with Sanu lining up in the slot, on the end and in the backfield, you gotta account for the guy on every play. And that means that #18 is going to do stuff like catch only 3 passes for a whopping 111 yards. That means that Gresham is going to destroy guys in single coverage. That means that they move safeties away from the line and Green-Ellis and Peerman rip off multiple long runs. Maybe these guys are on 'roids or something because this production is just crazy! And we have a great OL with 4 of the 5 guys aged 25 or younger.
4. Young players contributing: As above, we have the following on O (age in parentheses): OC Robinson (22), OG Zeitler (22), OG Boling (23), OT Smith (25), TE Gresham (24), TE Charles (21), WR Green (24), WR Sanu (23), WR Jones (22), WR Whalen (23), QB Dalton (25), DT Atkins (24), DE Johnson (25), DE Dunlap (23), LB Burfict (22), LB Maualuga (25), LB Lamur (23) & CB Kirkpatrick (23). That doesn't count another chunk of guys who aren't playing a lot but are younger than 26 (Iloka, Binns, Still, Thompson, Mays, Miles, Rey, Tate, Prater, Sands, Ghee, Moch).
5. Is this becoming a unique season?: A little bit more each week. This team could become a dynasty if it can add character to the current talent board, make a few strategic personnel pickups and retain some of the key cogs (e.g., Atkins, Andre Smith, MJ93).
NEW THEMES TO CONSIDER
* Get Atkins signed ASAP: No need to explain further.
* Whitworth feeding the beast: Great play to stand up to the Raiders BS. Can't believe that refs didn't flag Houston for the hit on Dalton, but no matter. You don't let opponents get away with that, and the time & score were right to take the stand that Whitworth made.
* Still capable of a swoon: Exhibit A is the 3rd Qtr play. This Qtr has been the Achilles all season.
* Where's Jason?: Allen, that is. Not sure whether the guy is ever gonna play this year. Worst quad injury in the history of the league.
* Draft Talk: I won't elaborate much but want to throw these questions out there:
** Manti Te'o: Will he be a bust or a beast. He looks like Junior Seau, and plays like him too. Can he take it to the next level though?
** Do we need to draft another DE?: Geathers is a UFA after this season and won't get another big offer. But Gilbert is playing well in this scheme, while Dunlap & MJ93 are the DEs of the future (per Mike Brown). And Jamal Anderson may be back next year as well. And we've got 4 decent DTs signed for 2013 (with Sims a UFA again).
** How many RBs do we need?: I like the thought of keeping Peerman and Green-Ellis, drafting two rookies and letting Leonard and Herron fight with them for the final two roster spots.
** How about Denard Robinson in the 3rd or 4th as an "X-Factor?": I like the idea. This guy could be the 6th WR, RS, backup RB and 3rd QB on game days.
* Definitely Safety and LB. What about WR and CB?: I'd like a really fast developmental guy for WR in the 3rd or 4th. Not sure on CB. We'll have Hall, Kirkpatrick and Pacman. Maybe Newman and/or Clements. Allen still under contract for a year. And Ghee and Prater will both be back. Not sure we'll need another high pick right now depending on who is retained.