The Cincinnati Bengals are riding high with an exhilarating 4-0 start to the season and have a marquee matchup against the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday. The storylines have been headlining national sports news sources, which is a change of scenery for the oft-forgotten orange and black.
On Friday, I appeared on FOX Sports 1340 AM in New Mexico with Steve Bortstein to talk about the club and their big test this weekend. Below is the audio clip and a partial transcript of the interview. A big thanks to Mr. Bortstein and the fine folks at FOX Sports 1340 AM.
SB: Anthony, I want to get your take--I do my weekly rankings, everybody does them hashtag "inflated egos"-- and I have Cincinnati ranked No. 4 in the NFL right now. I say this because I'm waiting for the inevitable meltdown because it happens every year with Cincinnati. At some point in time, Cincinnati is going to remember they're Cincinnati, Andy Dalton is going to remember he's Andy Dalton and eventually it all goes to hell. Why is it so different through the first four weeks of this season?
AC: Well, that's a great question. There's a new confidence in Andy Dalton this year. He seems to be playing a different brand of football--I think part of that has to do with the fact that he has his full complement of weapons back healthy this year that he didn't have towards the end of last year. To your point about collapsing and them remembering who they are, that's kind of a national narrative. And, unfortunately, this team tends to stumble in big games, primetime games, and/or the playoffs when everyone is watching. You know, not everyone is watching them at 1 P.M. Eastern on Sunday versus maybe a division rival, where they've had some good success recently. But, everything has been clicking for them so far this season and all phases are playing pretty well.
SB: How big of an impact has Tyler Eifert been, really? I think that's the guy who has provided the missing link for this offense, if you will.
AC: He's been huge. He's already surpassed his season-high total in touchdowns with three already this season. He was always kind of a complementary tight end before Jermaine Gresham left in free agency, so he's kind of the guy now at the tight end spot. He's not a great blocker, but that's not what they ask him to do in this offense. He's a guy who will go down the seam, make a big play and has been a good red zone target for Andy Dalton as well. I think having him in the middle of the field also has bred a lot of new confidence in Dalton this year. You're seeing him able to hit A.J. Green down the sideline for a big play, but also now hit Tyler Eifert down the middle of the field for a big gain and I think he's been a big key of what they have been doing on offense.
SB: Give me your takeaway on Seattle so far this season. They started off 0-2, then of course they had the two victories in a row--the first one over a depleted Chicago Bears team, and then the last victory, of course with some controversy with the ball being batted out of the end zone. They gave up a lot of yards on that last drive, etcetera. Give me your takeaway from you've seen from Seattle thus far.
AC: It's hard to gauge what kind of team they are at this point. They started off pretty poorly, you kind of look at it and say "well, kind of a tough stretch to start the season". They went to Green Bay and lost to Aaron Rodgers, and they get Kam Chancellor back, things are looking better on defense and they're winning some games. But, as you mentioned, those are two not very good teams at the moment in the Bears and Lions, so it's hard to gauge exactly where they are at...It will be interesting to see if getting some of their guys back gets them to being the Seahawks team that everyone has become accustomed to over the last couple of years.