Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth doesn’t know if he or running back Rex Burkhead is coming back to the Bengals next season in free agency. But he does know this after watching Burkhead rack up 119 yards in his first NFL start during Sunday’s 27-10 victory over Baltimore in the regular-season finale at Paul Brown Stadium.
I am extremely happy for our guys and how we came out and played today. For whatever reason, we still have that lull in the third and fourth quarters, but in all three phases, we did a very good job. That was important for the guys to continue to compete together, have fun together and enjoy each other. As we know when you move forward, nothing stays the same, and so that a great way to end this season and hopefully kick off 2017.
Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth knows exactly how hard it is for a running back to get 100 yards rushing against Baltimore any day any year. Heck, Whitworth is the only offensive player left from the last time they did it before Sunday, when Rex Burkhead capped off the greatest free agent push since the strike and put up 119 yards on 27 carries in the 27-10 victory over the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium in the regular season finale.
As Domata Peko sat at his locker and gave the benediction of his 11th season ("If we had a little more consistent kicking game we would have won three of those games and we’d still be in the hunt"), a few of the defensive linemen that didn’t play in Sunday’s 27-10 victory over the Ravens paraded by.
When the Cincinnati Bengals return to the field in 2017, they will probably look a little different than the squad that finished 6-9-1. Longtime team leaders Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko are scheduled to become free agents. Guard Kevin Zeitler and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick probably will command significant interest on the open market.
The conversation between Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell after the Bengals' 27-10 victory over the Ravens was brief. There was a hug, a few words exchanged, and then it was over. LaFell jogged to the locker room. Smith confirmed to a group of TV cameras trailing him that he would indeed retire after 16 seasons.
The Bengals entered 2016 with expectations of finally winning a playoff game, and they underachieved in almost every way. Cincinnati instead finished 6-9-1, its worst record since 2010. Offensive-line struggles, kicking problems and inconsistency on both sides doomed this team.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Brandon LaFell made a quick $500,000 in incentives Sunday against the Ravens. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, LaFell needed three catches to hit 60 for the season, which would earn him an extra $300,000. He also needed five yards to hit 800, which would earn him an extra $200,000.
AFC North Bytes
Steve Smith wanted to go out with another huge game. Instead, he settled for a mundane one and a chance to start thinking about his family and ice cream — Rocky Road, of course. Smith caught only three passes while the Cincinnati Bengals beat Baltimore 27-10 on Sunday. Both teams had been eliminated from playoff contention, so the spotlight was on one of the game's all-time greats.
For 12 teams, the NFL season now enters its most exciting month. For the other 20, plans can now be made for the 2017 NFL Draft, with the selection order set for non-playoff teams. By virtue of their 1-15 record, the Browns will pick first if the season ended today.
Never mind the fact the Dolphins laid the wood to the Steelers in a 30-15 rout in Miami earlier this season. Bettors are taking the Steelers in earnest as the two teams prepare for a rematch 1 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh is favored by 9.5 points in that contest, the highest line the team has had in a playoff game in Mike Tomlin’s time as coach of the team.
How do the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears move on from an awful 2016 season and start rebuilding? By having a successful 2017 draft. Great teams are built in April—not by spending money in free agency—and teams selecting in the top five will find a draft class with more talent than last year's crop produced.
The San Francisco 49ers will enter the 2017 season with their fourth different head coach in four seasons. The team announced the firings of coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke following Sunday's 25-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Relax, cheeseheads: Your Green Bay Packers are NFC North champions. Green Bay's season-saving six-game winning streak has taken them all the way back to the playoffs and the top of the division. The Packers will host the New York Giants next Sunday afternoon (4:40 p.m. ET) at Lambeau Field.
After finishing dead last in the AFC West two years in a row, the Chargers are parting ways with head coach Mike McCoy. The team confirmed the move on Sunday following San Diego's 37-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.