The Cincinnati Bengals shot off to a solid 2-0 start to the 2015 season, thanks to a good home opener win against the San Diego Chargers. Though the contest was close throughout much of the afternoon, the Bengals rode a number of big performances to grab the early sole possession of the AFC North division.
As it was last week in their win against the Raiders, Cincinnati has a number of worthy MVP candidates. Cast your vote and sound off on your selection in the comments section!
Andy Dalton: For the second straight week, No. 14 led the team with heady and efficient play for a win. We're not totally sure if it's just one of his notorious streaks or if he's finally playing the way all fans have hoped for, but it's been a great couple of week. On Sunday, Dalton had three touchdown passes to three different receivers to go along with 214 passing yards and zero turnovers. He also hasn't been forcing throws as he has done in the previous four seasons, preferring to throw the ball away and not risk an interception.
Giovani Bernard: The third-year back has had ups and downs in his career, but has continued to roll with the punches and make plays for the team. After Jeremy Hill had a rough outing with two lost fumbles, the coaching staff began to solely rely on Bernard to provide a spark. He finished with 123 rushing yards and another three catches for 16 yards.
Tyler Eifert: The big tight end has found the end zone often the first two weeks, scoring three times. He had a big one at the beginning of the fourth quarter against San Diego from nine yards out, which proved to be the game-clincher. Eifert finished the day as the team leader in receptions (four) and receiving yards (49) including the touchdown grab.
Geno Atkins: Yes, folks, he's back. In 2014, Atkins had three sacks all season. In two games this year, he already has two and has been extremely disruptive. The big defensive tackle forced backup guard to commit three penalties (two holds and a false start) and had a sack on the afternoon. The interior of the Chargers' offensive line was in Philip Rivers' lap quite often on Sunday.
Carlos Dunlap: It's kind of a usual suspects kind of thing with the Bengals this week, isn't it? Dunlap, who has also been stellar in the two games this year, benefitted greatly from Atkins' play on Sunday. He had 1.5 sacks and six total tackles and was a constant frustration of Rivers.
Russell Bodine: You read it correctly. Every Bengals fan's favorite whipping boy had an outstanding game on Sunday against the Chargers. Bodine was so good, in fact, that he graded the highest of all Bengals offensive linemen by Pro Football Focus metrics with a +4.8 score. Many of the more successful runs by Hill and Bernard were started by interior push.
The Cornerbacks: Normally, we don't like to group a bunch of guys together for an individual award, but the trio of Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Leon Hall were phenomenal on Sunday. Making it more complicated for us to pick one was their constant shuffling up of coverage responsibilities between San Diego's top three wideouts in Malcolm Floyd, Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson. Floyd and Johnson both had touchdown catches, but none had more than 55 yards receiving and the three had just 116 receiving yards on nine catches. Not bad after the group had a field day against the Lions just a week prior.