It would normally be a shock, had we not experienced this just last week.
When the Bengals improved their record to 5-0, beating a Seahawks squad despite a 17-point deficit, the national media shifted their attention toward the Queen City. Perhaps there were chin rubs and deep introspective analysis associated with this realization; Cincinnati is good, Andy Dalton is better and this bending defense won't break. Actually the narrative is totally about Dalton and his nameless weapons. Once you dig deeper, people offer praise, from the offensive line, to Marvin Jones' re-emergence to Tim Hasselbeck's summary of Tyler Eifert, nicknaming him a mini-Gronk (we suspect based on his experience, not actual physical description). There wasn't nearly as much attention paid to Cincinnati's 34-21 win over the Bills as there was last week... perhaps everyone just expects victory now.
"The Bengals may have the best offensive line in the NFL right now," writes NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. "Andy Dalton's pocket is clean, he rarely has to move his feet or alter his arm angle and he looks exceeding comfortable with his surroundings right now. He has such a deep cast of pass catchers there can be a new hero every week -- Marvin Jones was kinda unstoppable Sunday, at least for a lost Buffalo defense -- and if they can keep that line relatively healthy this could be the AFC's top seed."
Indeed. At least they'll reach the division round. AmIright? OK, I'm putting the outdated caricature back on the shelf to recollect voluminous amounts of dust. My curse in humor is using socially acceptable degradation in an effort to illicit a giggle or two... more on that in a minute when we dive into nicknames.
Peter King was equally impressed with Andy Dalton's "high-arcing rainbow" pass to Marvin Jones, generating 42 yards and leading to Jones' eventual third quarter touchdown on a wide receiver screen that gave Cincinnati a 24-14 lead.
Even former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason, who tends to shield negative responses due to his otherwise pessimistic viewpoints (usually as a result of having more pride with a higher investment with his old team), believes Cincinnati will be the last undefeated team.
The Sporting News' David Steele writes that after Cincinnati won an emotional fourth quarter contest against the Baltimore Ravens, the Bengals have proven enough this season. "This is what the Bengals do now," Steele writes. "And that is why it's time to stop coming up with reasons to doubt the Bengals, and to stop discrediting their 6-0 start because nothing they do matters until the playoffs."
Ron Clements, also from the Sporting News, writes that "Sunday was supposed to be a real test for the undefeated Bengals. They aced it."
"On Sunday, Cincinnati administered a fairly thorough beatdown of the Buffalo Fightin' Rex Ryans, 34-21, at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and now the Bengals will enter their bye week with a perfect 6-0 record," writes Knox Bardeen with Sports on Earth. Bardeen continues with an articulate argument that Dalton should be viewed as "elite".
It's time to forget about Andy Dalton's 0-4 playoff record, at least for the next 11 weeks. What he's done through the first six weeks of the season is nothing short of spectacular.
Locally, Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty took a more philosophical approach, writing that "nothing fazes" the Bengals, adding that six "weeks into the season, there is no team outside of Foxboro, MA, that is a surer thing.
On the other hand, CBS Sports writer John Breech went into bigotry by self-promoting a ridiculously insulting nickname, the "Carrot Top Cannon."
"The biggest lock in football is Andy Dalton in a 1 p.m. game," writes Breech. "For the sixth time this season, Daytime Dalton led the Bengals to an afternoon win. Not even the snow in Buffalo could slow down the Carrot Top Cannon, who threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers and ended the game with 243 yards and no interceptions."
Seriously... No one likes Carrot Top.
Yet, this should apply to other hair color references, too, like Red Rocket, or the Red Rifle... none of which Dalton cares for.
"At first I didn't like it," Dalton said during the summer of 2013. "I'd rather people just call me by my name, Andy, than 'Red Rifle.' If I'm out somewhere to eat and people yell, 'Hey, Red Rifle!' I'm kind of like, 'Oh, come on!' I've learned to accept it because I know the name isn't going anywhere."
Yep. We've beaten Dalton down into accepting unapproved nicknames with a veiled threat: "You'll accept this nickname and like it"! Yet, because we obsessively love sports nicknames, let's just stick with his last name, Dalton, and throw this picture up.
Now you've graduated to badassery, applying an applicable nickname while focusing less on someone's hair color.