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The Daily Banter: Rolen Scores First; Non-Playoff Team to Make the Playoffs?; A Preview Before the Previews

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For the first time in a billion years, the National League beat the American league in a delightful game of pitching mastery. Of the combined thirteen hits and four runs scored during the mid-season classic, the National League's first run was scored by the Reds very own Scott Rolen, who was the first of three runs scored on a three-run double by All-Star MVP Brian McCann. Rolen recorded a hit between two at bats, Joey Votto saw two pitches and recorded two outs and Brandon Phillips struck out in his only appearance. Arthur Rhodes didn't pitch.

Best part: Phillips voice while Rolen went from first to third on a Matt Holliday single saying "that's how we do it in Cincinnati." Brandon Phillips: The Reds version of Chad Ochocinco.

+ On Wednesday I particated in the Washington Post panel that asked what non-playoff team in 2009 will make the playoffs in 2010. I could have easily picked the Pittsburgh Steelers or the San Francisco 49ers, who seem to be the default favorites since the Cardinals all but dismantled defensively and at quarterback. But no. I wanted to go outside the box. Really outside the box. So I picked the Oakland Raiders. Houston seemed like the favorite on Wednesday's panel with one 49ers and Giants selection.

The following are topics that we'll be covering in detail as we close in on Training Camp.

+ In a Pre-camp preview of the division, Fox Sports' Peter Schrager writes that the Bengals very well could repeat as division champions. However, that question must be answered by facing a much tougher schedule than the one they faced in 2009.

This season the Bengals face the NFL’s top QBs against Tom Brady's Patriots, Peyton Manning's Colts, Drew Brees' Saints and Phil Rivers' Chargers, plus two meetings with both Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger. Cincinnati’s final eight games include two with the Steelers, road trips against the Colts and Jets, dates with both the Chargers and Saints and a season finale at Baltimore. Not exactly an easy wintertime stroll into the postseason.

I would argue that mentioning games against the Ravens and Steelers are somewhat meaningless, only because that's part of the schedule we face every year. Mentioning them adds an unnecessary punch of how truly tough the schedule will be for the Bengals this year. Though one could argue that the Ravens are better than last year, thus adding to that punch. James Walker added the same thing in a post about the team's schedule, writing:

Coming off a division title and their first playoff appearance in four years, the Cincinnati Bengals have even higher expectations in 2010. But to repeat a run to the postseason, Cincinnati will have to accomplish the feat against a brutal first-place schedule.

Cincinnati has the fourth toughest schedule this year.

+'s Michael Lombardi writes that for the Bengals to make the playoffs, Carson Palmer must return to his old form. This is a point that we'll be making soon in more detail [so keep coming back].

+ James Walker writes that Adam Jones, Matt Jones and Jerome Simpson are players on the roster bubble. I believe that Adam Jones is a lock and that Jerome Simpson makes it because Matt Jones won't.

+'s Pete Prisco writes that the team's biggest position battle is Jordan Shipley versus Andre Caldwell. I can't argue that one.

+ Mike Brown once work for George Steinbrenner, who at the time was running his freighter company. Brown worked as a deck hand on one of the ships.

“I saw him that summer when we were in port and he came out to the ship to talk to the crew about unionization,” Brown said. “He pulled me aside after the talk and he basically told me, ‘Well, I laid it out for them,’ but I’m not sure he convinced them. I know this: I’ve always been grateful that he gave me a job and I really enjoyed that summer.”

+ Intern coach Rod Woodson released his top-five rankings of NFL cornerbacks this year. No Leon Hall. No Johnathan Joseph. Think he's trying to inspire the players? Think he cares? Think the players really give a damn? If it's any consolation, Champ Bailey didn't make his list either.

+ Like most of you, I'm not a fan of Ben Roethlisberger. The latest episode of As Ben's World Turns is somewhat trivial. Right? A woman witnessed Roethlisberger peeing on a golf course. Peeing on a golf course. I was raised to believe that this was an American male tradition. Men peeing on the golf course like an automated sprinkler system on the seventh green helps take the edge off of your putting game. Right? Well, not on the golf course. Hopefully it's on a tree. But now we're just talking semantics. However, in the end, authorities say that it wasn't Roethlisberger watering the squirrel's home.

+ Remember when Shaun Rogers was arrested for carrying a loaded weapon in his carry-on luggage earlier this year?

Rogers, 31, will be required to complete a 10-hour weapons course and complete 40 hours of community service. Upon completion, the felony charges will be dropped. He will also take it upon himself to talk to children in the Cleveland School District about getting to and staying in school.

+ Albert Haynesworth's personal trainer said that the defensive tackle has lost 32 pounds since early April.

+ Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson was one of several people that escaped a fire that "burnt a multi-million dollar home in Bay Harbor, Michigan to the ground."

+ We wrote recently that the Pittsburgh Steelers are extending linebacker LaMarr Woodley's contract, partly because the Steelers do not negotiate during the season. However, the Steelers are expected to signing the linebacker once "the new collective bargaining agreement is in place."

+ ESPN's Len Pasquarelli features a piece about BYU's Harvey Unga, who will be the featured prospect during Thursday's supplemental draft. The Bengals were reportedly one of 20 teams that watched his workout.