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Six-Pack of Hu-Dey: Should the Bengals play to win the game; concern that Zimmer may leave after this season

As we say goodbye to 2009 and enter 2010, we wonder in our final regular season edition of Six-Pack of Hu-Dey, whether the Bengals should start their players. We're also growing concerned about whether the team can get Mike Zimmer back after this year with Daniel Snyder and (reportedly) Mike Shanahan in the mix. Jay McDonnell joins us for this round. Let's get to it.

The Bengals should play to beat the Jets. And that means playing their starters. This isn't about where they can position themselves in the playoffs. The likelihood that the Bengals can improve their positioning is limited, provided the Patriots win. That however is meaningless. Cincinnati should keep the pedal floored and every healthy starter should play to beat the New York Jets. If you're a player, would you rather go into the playoffs on a two-game winning streak or having laid down because you're worried about injury? If you answer the latter, you have to worry.

Momentum is a big thing in the NFL and beating the New York Jets gives the players more confidence heading into the playoffs. Why give the Jets confidence and the mental edge, especially considering we could rematch? Cincinnati would be better served playing to beat the Jets, even if that means playing their starters. Case in point, teams that enter the playoffs with more wins in the past five games since 1978 are bound to be more successful. From the Wall Street Journal.

Wins in Last 5 Games # of Teams Record in 1st Playoff Game Super Bowl Wins
0 1 1-0 0
1 8 3-5 0
2 52 27-25 1
3 133 69-64 9
4 113 63-50 11
5 47 34-13 10


If players need to rest for the sake of recovering from injury, fine, rest 'em. If the players want to play, play them. More importantly, play to win the game (h/t Herm Edwards). Tank Johnson said, "You think we’re going to show up and just lay down? No, we’re going out there with every intent on winning the game."

Chad Ochocinco wants to play the entire game too. "I don't want to hear anything about rest. I can rest in the off-season. I don't want to hear anything about getting hurt."

Jay McDonnell says that resting the starters is the wise move. The Indianapolis Colts set the football world on fire with the decision to rest Peyton Manning and several of the starters in the second half of their game against the Jets, which many believed cost them a chance at an undefeated regular season. The decision to rest their starters sends a clear message that a championship is more important to the franchise then risking injury to key players in hopes of accomplishing something that is considered fleeting such as an undefeated season. With the Bengals qualifying for the playoffs last week against the Chiefs, they are faced with the same decision as the Colts, i.e. whether to play or rest their starters.

When the season starts, the obvious goal of any team is to win the division and get into the playoffs. The Bengals have accomplished this with little or no devastating injuries to key players. In order to ensure that this does not happen, sitting the starters for the majority of the game against the Jets would be a wise decision. The other advantage is to give those who get little or no playing time during the regular season a chance to prepare for the possibility of replacing who they back up during the playoffs. J.T. O’Sullivan got little playing time only in mop up duty. Plus, with acquisition of Larry Johnson, additional reps will only solidify his knowledge offense. Carson Palmer is healthy; keeping him that way should be priority one.

There are those who say that keeping a player sharp by playing them when little is at stake is a wise move. There are also those who feel that the players should be rest to conserve energy. There is no proven formula that assures a team success when entering the playoffs. However, reducing the risk of injury assures that a playoff team will have their key players available for what is considered the most important part of the year. Without them, a shot at a championship will diminish and an early exit from the playoffs would be much more likely. History will look more favorably up them as champions then winning a regular season game.

However, Jay McDonnell writes that momentum is big. Momentum by definition is "a property of a moving body that determines the length of time to bring it to rest when under the action of a constant force or moment". In the sports world, momentum is used to define how a team is performing, whether it is in a game or its performance overall. Entering the playoffs, no matter the sport, those teams who qualify look to gather momentum by winning several straight games with the belief this will carry them far into the playoffs. If a team suffers some losses prior to the playoffs beginning, there is a growing concern that this loss of momentum will slow their ability to advance to the goal of a championship.

The NFL is entering the final week of the regular season and the teams who have qualified for the playoffs look to gather "momentum" by winning their remaining games before the regular season ends. Each year, a team that looked to be out of the playoffs a few weeks before the season ends may win their final games to not only qualify for the playoffs, but carry the momentum of the winning streak deep into the playoffs. The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers are a prime example of this belief as they carried a 7-5 record heading into the final quarter of season winning the last four games to qualify for a wildcard spot. It can be argued that this momentum may have carried them to the Super Bowl. The Bengals are no exceptions to this belief heading into the last game of the season against the New York Jets.

The Bengals hit a pothole on the road to qualifying for a playoff spot losing to the Minnesota Vikings and the streaking San Diego Chargers, halting the momentum built up from the mid-season four game winning streak. Entering the playoffs losing three of the final four games is not a way of gaining the necessary momentum. The victory against the Kansas City Chiefs and a victory against the Jets will help the Bengals build some much needed momentum that could carry them deep into the playoffs.

Is this the best rookie class during the Marvin Lewis era? Even though Rey Maualuga fractured his ankle Sunday, the Bengals will close the regular season this weekend with one of the more impressive rookie classes they've had in a long time. They're not just a talented group, but they are contributing to this season as rookies.

  • Rey Maualuga: 63 tackles, three forced fumbles, one sack.
  • Michael Johnson: three sacks, five passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
  • Bernard Scott: 68 rushes, 301 yards rushing and a 100-yard performance against the Oakland Raiders.
  • Kevin Huber: 79 punts, 43.5-yards per punt, 22 punts inside the 20-yard line.
  • Quan Cosby: An 11.2-yard average on punt returns, including three returned for over 20 yards.
  • Morgan Trent: 25 tackles, one sack and four passes defensed.
  • Tom Nelson: 12 tackles in the past three games and an interception and two passes defensed against the Lions.

That's not all. Andre Smith, Jonathan Luigs and Chase Coffman figure to contribute next year, as well as Fui Vakapuna (depending on whether they keep Jeremi Johnson).

Bengals need to do whatever it takes to keep Zimmer in Cincinnati. We wrote about this in another version of Six-Pack, but we honestly believe that the Bengals need to get something together for defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as soon as possible. It was written the day after Christmas that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is being targeted as the newest defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins. 

From PFT:

We're told that Mike Shanahan has targeted Zimmer as the first choice to run the defense, if/when Shanahan resurfaces as head coach of the Redskins.

If the issue is money, then Cincinnati, at the rate they conduct business, hasn't a chance in the world. Not with Daniel Snyder in the mix. Cincinnati did work on an extension earlier in the year, but...

What the future holds for the Zimmers remains to be seen. He may end up being the club’s most coveted free agent. He said the team approached him about a contract extension, but "nothing came to fruition … . We’ll see.

You don't let a guy go that took a 27th ranked defense in 2007 into a fourth ranked defense through 15 games in 2009. Mike Brown has never seen a defense like Cincinnati's this year. And if he lets Zimmer go, he might not see another defense like this again.

Jay McDonnell sees the irony of a possible Super Bowl with two historically bad teams. The playoffs have pretty much been set in both conferences which will spark much debate in the media as to who will be the AFC and NFC representatives in the Super Bowl. Expect much of the talk to focus on franchises that have a history of winning and championships. If the Pittsburgh Steelers make the playoffs, don’t be surprised to hear a lot about them because of recent history. We all know the Colts and New Orleans Saints will be at the top of the list because of their records. Even the Vikings and Patriots will get their share of favorable prognostication.

Two of the NFL’s historically worst franchises, the Bengals and the Arizona Cardinals, have done something that I believe most of the media does not want: qualify for the playoffs. They have a total of three Super Bowl appearances between them without a solid history of winning. Don’t expect many of the sooth sayers to speak very highly of them. "It’s a nice story" will be their mantra. If any of them pick the Bengals or Cardinals to be in the Super Bowl, the outcry from those who listen to them will be loud.

However, it could happen. The Cardinals put together one of the best seasons in the history of their franchise. Qualifying for the playoffs in successive seasons is as rare as their appearances in the Super Bowl. The Bengals achieved unexpected heights that very few saw coming and made the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years. If both teams find themselves playing in the Super Bowl, be expecting to hear how this is the worst thing that could possibility happen to the NFL. The negative media will tout how no one will watch because of the franchise’s history of losing. I believe this would be great not for the Bengals and Cardinals, but for the fact that the teams the media would love to see in the Super Bowl will be participating as spectators. I will relish hearing their whines. Go Cincy and Zona!