November 29, 2012

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Why the Cincinnati Bengals are Legitimate Super Bowl Sleepers

By: Matt Bowen

The NFL playoffs are quickly approaching and the postseason picture couldn’t be cloudier at the moment. As a die-hard NFL fan, that’s what is great about the game. With so many games coming down to the wire on a weekly basis, the human imagination runs a marathon every Sunday with all the possibilities for the “second season.” Fans want nail-biting, bone-crunching action and the NFL delivers with regularity. Something fans love is debating the true sleeper teams and the Cincinnati Bengals should be feared this season.

Can the Bengals replicate the run the Giants made to the Super Bowl last season?

Now in the final quarter of the year, every team around the league is either gearing up for the final push toward the postseason or looking to spoil the party for their opponents.

So, who will win the Super Bowl? Well, only time will tell as the games have yet to be played, but there’s plenty of room for speculation.

Everybody knows that the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons are sitting pretty at 10-1 and will be favorites in the postseason, but having one of the best regular season records does not guarantee the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Often it’s not the team that is tops throughout the season, but the team that gets hot at the right time.

Super Bowl sleepers are always dangerous this time of year as out of nowhere everything things seems to come together and these teams begin to fire on all cylinders.

In the recent past the Green Bay Packers of 2010 and New York Giants of 2011 fumbled through much the regular season only to catch fire late and carry that momentum all the way to a championship. This year, that team is the Bengals.

Yes, the Bengals are the most dangerous sleeper to make a serious push for the Super Bowl this season. Gone are the days of being the doormat of the NFL and a real laughing stock; the Bengals are for real.

Led by quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals are currently 6-5, riding a three-game winning streak and are within reach of the playoffs. The best thing that happened to this young, revamped team this year may have been a four-game losing streak.

Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth commented that the team “relaxed” after a 3-1 start and thought that winning in the NFL would come easy to them. After a month of losing the Bengals did something that hasn’t been seen in Cincinnati since the late 1980’s—they collected themselves and never quit.

After a surprise trip to the playoffs in 2011, the Bengals were written off as a one-year wonder. Behind Dalton and a tough dose of NFL reality in 2012, the team is headed in the right direction.

The Bengals offense is growing on a weekly basis.  Having a top-five NFL receiver in A.J. Green, an up-and-coming touchdown target in rookie Mohamed Sanu and a dependable running back in BenJarvus Green-Ellis doesn’t hurt. What Green accomplishes on Sunday afternoons is special; he makes the game look simple. His 10 receiving touchdown are currently tied with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski for tops in the league.

The defense plays with a serious chip on their shoulder and most importantly, the team is having fun. The team that plays together stays together and for a second straight season the playoffs are on the horizon for the Bengals. The fact that they are on the outside of the playoffs looking in right now gives them even more fuel.

A win over their divisional foe Baltimore Ravens in Week 17 to clinch a spot in the postseason will give them all the confidence they need. The Bengals are the team of the future.

Who Dey!

April 24, 2012

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NBA End Of Season Storylines

By: Joe Williams

With only three days left in the NBA’s regular season, most of the playoff matchups are set but there are still plenty of interesting storylines to keep our eyes on. Here’s what I will be watching for.
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Worst team ever?

Could the greatest player of all time also be part of the worst team of all time? Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats have lost 21 games in a row. They must find a way to win one of their final two games (at Orlando or home against the Knicks) to avoid finishing the season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history. I hope they get that win.

Best in the East

It is a long shot, but the Heat could still sneak past the Bulls for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. It shouldn’t matter too much for either team unless they meet in the conference finals and go to a game seven. Either way, it is highly unlikely the Bulls will let home court advantage slip away. Chicago is also currently tied with San Antonio for the best record in the NBA so home court in the NBA Finals could still be up in the air if those teams were to meet.

The Bulls and Heat will have to battle to the end of the season for the East's #1 seed.

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Final playoff spot

15 of the 16 playoff spots have been taken. The eight seed in the West and the right to take on the Spurs in the first round will go to either the Jazz or the Suns. They meet tonight in Salt Lake City. It is pretty much win or go home. It’s not a game seven, but it doesn’t get much bigger in the regular season. If you don’t believe me, just ask my boss. He’s a Jazz fan.

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World Peace?

The elbow that knocked James Harden out of the game on Sunday certainly wasn’t very peaceful. World Peace claims it was unintentional. Whether it was or not, he’s likely to be suspended. The question is for how long. If it is more than just one game, he’ll be sitting out of playoff action. How will this affect the Lakers?

Whose town is it?

Speaking of the Lakers, they are just a half game ahead of the Clippers in the race for the Pacific Division title and the three seed in the wide open Western Conference. I am sure both teams want the division title bragging rights and even more importantly, to avoid the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. And if you are the Clippers you really don’t want to lose your last two games and let Memphis steal the fourth seed and home court advantage in the first round matchup.

Scoring title

Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are both averaging 27.9 points per game. I’m wondering how bad Kobe wants the scoring title. We’ll find out when we seen how many shots he takes in a possibly meaningless game at Sacramento on Thursday night. Durant’s season will be finished and Bryant will know exactly how many points he needs in the last game of the NBA’s regular season.

October 27, 2011

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Division Races Heating Up

By: Joe Williams

It’s seven weeks into the NFL season, and the division races are starting to take shape. NFL teams like Buffalo and Detroit have thrown their hats in the ring, and others like St. Louis and Indianapolis have played their way out of it. Here’s where we stand:

AFC EAST

It was supposed to be a battle between the Jets and Patriots, but the Bills have made it a three team race. New England’s only loss came at the hands of the Bills and their New Year’s Day rematch ought to have playoff implications. Buffalo has a few games against NFL teams at the bottom of the standings and two meetings with the Jets, so the schedule sets up well for them to stay in the race. The next month will be critical for the Jets. They play the Bills twice and New England once. One of these teams is going to be watching at home in January.

AFC NORTH

Cleveland and Cincinnati are hanging around. This is the only division with no NFL teams below .500. Wins against New England and Baltimore in the next two weeks would put the Steelers in the driver’s seat in the AFC. Things are going to get much more difficult for the Bengals with two games left against both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. We’re about to find out what this team is made of. Nov. 6 at Pittsburgh is the game of the year for the Ravens. If they can beat the Steelers for a second time, the division should be in their controls. The Browns are in the conversation at 3-3 but they haven’t beaten anyone worth bragging about. Can they steal a couple against the big boys?

AFC SOUTH

All it took was one injury for the Colts to go from AFC South dominance to one of the worst teams in the league. Someone is going to take advantage and after Sunday’s beat down of the Titans, it looks like it will be Houston. The schedule sets up nicely for them with most of their tough games already behind them. If Tennessee can get back on track, the New Year’s Day rematch could be huge.

AFC WEST

As usual, the Chargers are the heavy favorite in the West. And as usual, they let the rest of the West hang around. They host the Chiefs on Halloween in a must-win for Kansas City. The Chiefs really have to win the next three to stay in the race because they have a brutal five-game-stretch coming up. If the Raiders can get their act together during the bye week and get Carson Palmer ready to go, the West title may be on the line when they meet in the last game of the season.

NFC EAST

There will be lots of entertaining games between now and week 17, but it almost seems like we can just skip ahead to the last day of the season when Dallas is at the Giants and Philadelphia hosts Washington. That’s when this division will be sorted out.

NFC NORTH

The Packers have already got people talking about a 16-0 regular season. It’s probably not going to happen, but as long as Rodgers is healthy, they should win the North division. Detroit still has two shots at the defending champs though so they could make things interesting. Chicago is too far back to catch Green Bay but the Bears will be in the thick of the wild card race.

NFC SOUTH

The Falcons, Saints, and Bucs won a total of 34 games last year. They are on a similar pace right now, and, just like last year, one of them is going to get left out of the playoff picture. New Orleans has a one game lead and the last two at home, so they should have an edge. It could come down to which team gets knocked off by Carolina in the last month of the season.

NFC WEST

San Francisco has five wins. The rest of the division has three. It is the 49ers‘ division to give away. And if they keep playing well with a soft schedule coming up, they could even earn an opening round bye.