When the Bengals visit the Superdome this week, they will do so as 6.5 point underdogs. That being said, Cincinnati has proven they have what it takes to beat this type of team and to win this type of bounce-back game. It just depends on which Bengals team shows up. And largely, it depends on Andy Dalton, who earns my award for player to watch for this week.
It's not that it's an award he should be thankful for. Instead of reward, maybe "spotlight" is more appropriate. Frankly, I lost a lot of faith in our signal-caller this past week. It wasn't one game that caused this, but a series of inconsistent play that he continues to demonstrate in big games. The loss against Cleveland wasn't all his fault, but it was largely on him.
The fact of the matter is that Good Andy desperately needs to make an appearance in this game in New Orleans. It's important for us, and it's important for him to do so. He may have inked the mega-deal already, but that's not to say he's gained the faith of Bengaldom with his playing. Far from it.
With an impressive road performance, Dalton could go a long way to quelling some fears. I, at least, would feel just a little more confident when I say "Andy Dalton is our quarterback." Because right now, the conviction is lacking. Bengals fans want to enjoy football Sunday, not watch in misery, a team that obviously left their hearts in the locker room.
That starts with Dalton. The heart, the fire, the killer instinct all starts at the quarterback position, right now. Andy Dalton needs to show us that he can lead this team with all three of those traits. You don't survive the NFL without them.
A win against the Saints would put Cincinnati back in a more comfortable position in the win column. The Steelers, Browns, and Ravens all have easier schedules than the former AFC North winners from 2013, so the road is most certainly uphill to take the division again. Right now, it is no exaggeration to say that Sunday is a make-or-break game for the playoffs, in any regard.
Andy, show us the Red Rifle we're supposed to fall in love with on the field. We miss him.