“Injuries are a part of the game.” It might as well be one’s dad proclaiming: “rub some dirt on it!”
I suppose this week’s matchup of the Cincinnati Bengals versus the Atlanta Falcons could be coined “The Walking Wounded,” given the amount of injuries both teams are dealing with at the moment. It’s also apropos because of both teams coming off of tough losses and are attempting to shake off some bad vibes.
The personnel losses have been of a more serious nature for the Falcons, as guys like Andy Levitre and Keanu Neal are done for the year, while Devonta Freeman also continues to miss time. This is definitely a respite for a Bengals team who left Carolina with an amount of injuries enough to prompt questions of their ability to field a team in Week 4.
Of course, we’re exaggerating a bit here.
Still, in a game that has long been coined a “gladiator sport,” there are still some old-school NFL players who try to enter games before they should. However, some new rules in the league have fans up in arms about the future of the game.
For example, does this...
To ensure consistency in officiating the roughing the passer rule, the @NFL Competition Committee clarified techniques that constitute a foul. Examples of permissible and impermissible contact on the quarterback: pic.twitter.com/ODU6FMGeIW— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) September 27, 2018
Resemble this, by chance?
But, I digress...
Both teams have the injury excuse this week. Against Carolina, Cincinnati probably had that crutch to lean on (figuratively speaking), but familiar issues from the past two unsuccessful seasons reared their ugly heads.
Cincinnati had a hard time getting their beat-up defense off of the field on third downs, they had zero answers against the run, while Andy Dalton turned the ball over four times. In short, it was an algorithm that would undoubtedly have led to any team to a loss and are conundrums the team eked past in the first two weeks.
Only in “Bengaldom” does a flip of the switch come so easily. Visit with the Patriots or Steelers faithful, and you’ll find belligerent groups confident that their polarizing coaches and signal-callers will be the ones who drag their respective squads into the January bracket.
Yet, after a 2-0 start and the fan base being given the ability to puff out their chests, the peacocking from Who Dey Nation crawled back into a chick’s peep after Week 3. Cincinnati was handled by Cam Newton’s Panthers, only to be chided by his over-animated lip-synching of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” in the waning minutes of an impending victory.
If you’re into the moral victory thing, Cincinnati made a game of it until a couple minutes before the final gun. Even when things looked bleak in the form of a 14-point second half deficit, the Bengals clawed their way back into the game with Joe Mixon, A.J. Green, Billy Price, Michael Johnson, Ryan Glasgow and a myriad of others hitting the infirmary.
It’s almost a miracle that they left Charlotte with just a 10-point loss.
If you want to talk excuses, the Falcons have plenty—and rational ones, at that. Atlanta is down their two top safeties, their starting left guard and their athletic middle linebacker for the year.
Matt Ryan doesn’t seem to be the problem in 2018. He’s thrown seven touchdowns to just two interceptions, along with 299 passing yards per game. Yet the team is just 1-2.
Yes, those injuries are a major reason for a disappointing start to the 2018 season. However, it’s a somewhat-overlooked area that is plaguing the Falcons.
After a 1-of-5 red zone scoring rating in Week 1, Atlanta’s offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian atoned for some Week 1 mistakes. But, can he remain creative in the wake of so many injuries?
For the Bengals, John Ross and Dre Kirkpatrick remain fan-favorite whipping boys, but this seems like a solid week for a rebound. We can talk about Dan Quinn and Marvin Lewis, but this week’s head-to-head will come down to the coordinators.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor gets A.J. Green back after he left last week’s game, but will still be without Mixon. Can he come up with a game plan to exploit the issues at safety for the Falcons and/or one to blow the roof off of Mercedes-Benz Stadium with John Ross?
So many facets seem to go against the Bengals this week. It’s their third of four games to start the season on the road, with the past two being some longer treks to the south.
Green is back this week, so Sunday’s in-game graphics will obviously be a comparison chart between fellow 2011 top-10 wide receiver draftee, Julio Jones and him.
Regardless of each team’s receiver situation, this Sunday is a huge barometer for the rest of 2018. At 1-3, the Falcons are still alive in the NFC South, but have quite a bit of make-up work to do.
Meanwhile, if the Bengals shootout to a 3-1 start, the up-and-down Ravens and Steelers will continue to look up at them. And, who knows what’s happening in Cleveland with Jack Napier, AKA Baker Mayfield, at the helm.
On The Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast, we’ve frequently talked about the schedule and how things could play out, given the results of this month. If Cincinnati can escape a Burfict-less September and three road games of the first four with a 3-1 record, that’s borderline incredible.
Can they, though?
Heck, even Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports—a guy who always hasn’t been overly-complimentary of the Bengals—has Cincinnati as a safe bet to at least cover the spread this week. In a year of supposed change, we shouldn’t let a random speed bump throw everything askew.
Bengals 30, Falcons 26
AC — “Ka Kaw, Ka Kaw.”