Posted on: February 20, 2009 11:12 am
Edited on: February 20, 2009 11:20 am

Bengals tag T.J. . . no, wait . . . Shayne???

When the Bengals stuck the franchise tag on Shayne Graham earlier this week, I nearly fell off my chair. Here's a link to the story on www.bengals.com.


And here is T.J. Houshmandzadeh's reaction to that announcement.


I like Shayne Graham. I like T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Both have provided great value to the Bengals. The tag gives Graham a one-year $2.48 million deal, though Graham said he would have preferred "a long-term market value contract" either with the Bengals or through free agency.

And this move virtually assures that Housh is headed out the door. All Bengals' fans have had some time to mull this over. Some believe the team will be OK without him. I would like for him to stay for the leadership he provides to the wide receiver corps and the young guys now rising through the ranks among them. I suppose I will have to get used to the idea of Housh in a different uniform, barring a shocking announcement from the Bengals that they have reached a long-term deal that will work for them and for Housh. I just don't have confidence that anyone can step up and be the leader Housh has been the last few years. To replace that leadership, the Bengals likely will have to step into the free-agent market for a big-name, big-reputation wide receiver.

I'm happy for Shayne. He has done enough for the team to deserve that kind of dough. But I'm not sure what the move says about the overall thinking being employed right now by what passes for a brain trust with the Bengals. Tag a place kicker and let arguably one of your best players walk away, again? Sheesh.

Posted on: December 28, 2008 5:24 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2008 9:40 pm

Bengals beat KC to end 2008 on 3-game win streak

A Bengals victory is always nice for their fans. As awful as the team has been at times this year, you have to wonder what motivates them to keep going out there and doing it, besides the fact that they are professionals and they get paid to do it. For the younger guys, its valuable playing time to get exposed to the NFL version of the game. For the veterans, its time to play for pride and to show the younger guys what it takes to be around long enough to be a veteran. For all, it's a chance to finish on a positive note and have something to build on for 2009.

Going up against the Chiefs, a team that has had a marginally worse record than the Bengals this year, the Bengals (4-11-1) didn't put up great offensive numbers, with just 329 net offensive yards, but the defense held the Chiefs (2-14) to only 220 net offensive yards, and the team played well enough to win 16-6 at Paul Brown Stadium.

Again, the Bengals relied on Shayne Graham to supply much of the offense. Graham had a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter to get the Bengals on the board. Graham's kick represented the only scoring in the first quarter. He also had a 30-yard trey in the second quarter and a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Running back Cedric Benson had another great day, with 25 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown. He essentially carried the load for the offense. Kudos to the offensive line for giving Benson room to run. Receiver Andre Caldwell had four carries for 49 yards. James Johnson had three carries for 15 yards. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had seven rushes for 29 yards. In total, the Bengals' offense ran for 204 yards.

Fitz went 18 of 30 for 129 yards behind center. Caldwell had five catches for 34 yards. Running back James Johnson had three catches for 20 yards, and Benson and receiver Chris Henry each had two catches for 19 yards. Nate Lawrie and Reggie Kelly each had two catches, and Glenn Holt and Ben Utecht each had a catch on the day.

For the Chiefs, QB Tyler Thigpen was 19 of 36 for 191 yards and a touchdown. His best target on the day was receiver Dwayne Bowe, who had 10 catches for 103 yards. Tight end Anthony Gonzalez had five catches for 53 yards and the touchdown. Receivers Mark Bradley and Devard Darling each had two catches, Bradley for 21 yards and Darling for 14 yards.

The Bengals can be proud of the fact that they held the Chiefs to just 31 net yards on the ground. Running back Larry Johnson had 10 carries for 18 yards. Running back Jamaal Charles had three carries for nine yards, and Thigpen ran twice for four yards.

On defense, both teams were doing their best to make the other team miserable. Benson was hit hard twice. Bengals' defensive backs harassed Chiefs' receivers all day, yes, while giving up the 100+ yards to Dwayne Bowe, but also while limiting the other three receivers in the mix to just 83 yards, including just 53 to Gonzalez, and only letting one go in the end zone. Cornerback Leon Hall played well, breaking up pass plays and making hard tackles. He netted eight tackles on the day. Linebacker Dhani Jones had five tackles. Safety Chris Crocker had two tackles, and safety Chinedum Ndukwe had two tackles and three asissts. Chiefs' linebacker Rocky Boiman had six tackles and four assists, cornerback Brandon Carr had five tackles, and Derrick Johnson had five tackles and six assists. Each team gave up one sack, with defensive end Antwan Odom getting one for the Bengals and defensive end Jason Babin getting one for the Chiefs.

The Bengals' victory, paired with a Browns' loss (see below), allows the Bengals to slip into third place in the AFC North by percentage points because of the tie earlier this year against the Eagles, and drops the Browns to fourth place in the division.

It's always disappointing to know the Bengals won't be going to the playoffs for yet another year. We all know that we have to worry about the "Groundhog Day" effect next year. Will the team make changes in the off-season and do well enough in the draft to allow for at least the potential of a winning season in 2009? Or will we all be set up to suffer through another season of heartbreak and disappointment? Unfortunately, none of us has the power to answer these questions or to make the changes we believe need to be made. All we can do is look forward to 2009, hope for the best, yet prepare for the worst, as we have gotten used to doing.


Around the AFC North . .

Browns versus Steelers -- The Steelers (12-4) beat the Browns (4-12) into the turf at Heinz Field today, but sustained a shock when Ben Roethlisberger was taken off the field on a cart late in the second quarter after sustaining a concussion. Preliminary reports are that the concussion won't stop Roethlisberger from starting the Steelers' second-round playoff game in a couple of weeks, but concussions are touchy things, especially for a guy who has been banged around a lot this year. This game may have been the straw that broke Romeo Crennel's back, though, as rumors now are swirling that both he and Browns' general manager Phil Savage may be asked to step down this week.

Ravens -- A playoff spot hangs in the balance for the Ravens, as they play the Jaguars. Near the end of the second quarter, the Ravens are up 17-7.

Posted on: December 28, 2008 10:55 am
Edited on: December 28, 2008 10:57 am

NFL: 0-16 -- what would it mean?

I sympathize with fans of the Detroit Lions. Being one who follows the ups (few and far between) and downs (mostly) of the Cincinnati Bengals, I know what it means to see 2-14, 3-13,  4-12, and 7-9 more times than you thought you would ever care to.

What I have found baffling about the Lions this year is the number of games that the team has actually been in early, being up as many as three scores in at least one instance, before finding a way to lose the game in the second half. It's difficult to pinpoint where the problems are when such things happen.

The Lions are in a similar situation to the Bengals from an ownership standpoint. Mr. Brown, despite all indications to the contrary, appears to believe he is enough of a "football guy" to get the Bengals where they need to be. I have been convinced for a while that Mr. Brown runs the Bengals like a business, to make money, rather than like a football team, to win games. William Clay Ford, Sr., appears to be just as out of touch with reality on a day-to-day basis. I'm not sure if it is for the same reasons, but the results are the same.

To see a team go 0-16 is tough to contemplate, no matter what team it is. I started a poll earlier this season on the Bengals board asking who would be the first team to win a game, the Lions or the Bengals, because, at that point, I thought there was a downhill struggle going on with both teams. The point is moot now, as the Bengals got their first win at the beginning of November over the Jaguars, then tied the Eagles two weeks later at home. The Bengals have won their last two and are field-goal favorites against the Chiefs today.

The Lions play the Packers at Lambeau Field today. The line quoted in the CBS preview of this game has the Packers as 10 1/2-point favorites. It's hard for me to believe the Lions can win this game, so 0-16 may become a harsh reality, not something a team wants to be remembered for.

Posted on: December 26, 2008 8:12 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2008 9:17 pm

A Christmas miracle! Bengals favored by 3!

When I read the line today on Sunday's Chiefs versus Bengals game, I almost fainted. The Orange & Black are actually FAVORED by a field goal. I know, I know, it's only  the usual "tip of the hat for home-field advantage" line, but still, the Bengals haven't enjoyed that advantage for most of their home games this year. It didn't matter who it was, they were always behind the eight ball. So, it IS a Christmas miracle!

The Bengals (3-11-1) come into the game against the Chiefs (2-13) on a two-game win streak, following a 20-13 win over the Redskins at home and a 14-0 win against the Browns at Cleveland. But a lot of fans are feeling a bit melancholy and unsettled about the Bengals "winning out." With a loss, the Bengals could pick in the top four in the 2009 draft and possibly get in on some of the best offensive linemen to come out of the college ranks in a while. With a win, the Bengals could drop to the seventh pick in the draft and potentially miss out on the best picks for the offensive line. Frustrated fans are getting a familiar feeling, one that tells them Mr. Brown won't see the forest for the trees in a 4-11-1 season with the team winning three in a row to finish 2008. But many of those same fans would have a hard time rooting against the Bengals to do less than their best on any given Sunday.

By The Numbers . . .

Points per game --  Bengals  13     Chiefs  19

Passing Yards per game --  Bengals 152     Chiefs  196

Rushing Yards per game --  Bengals  88     Chiefs  119

Points Allowed per game --  Bengals 24     Chiefs  28

Passing Yards Allowed per game --  Bengals  207     Chiefs  242

Rushing Yards Allowed per game --  Bengals  126     Chiefs  156

Total Offense --  Bengals  240     Chiefs  315

Total Defense --  Bengals  333     Chiefs  398

With the Chiefs allowing more than 150 rushing yards a game, if the Bengals' offensive line can play like they did last week against the Browns, and give Cedric Benson some running room, he could have another great day. The Chiefs also have allowed more passing yards per game than the Bengals have, meaning Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has played well the last couple of games, could finish the season on a good note. That's not to discount Chiefs quarterback Tyler Thigpen, who has almost 700 more yards passing and nine more touchdowns this year than Fitz, but who also has more interceptions (12), which could play into the hands of a Bengals' defense that's in better shape now than it has been recently. Leon Hall had three interceptions last week alone, and he's likely salivating over the prospect of grabbing a couple more. And T.J. Houshmandzadeh is still in pursuit of his second consecutive 100-catch season and 1,000 yards for the season. Thigpen has a couple of pretty good weapons of his own in running back Larry Johnson, who has almost 900 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games this season, and tight end Anthony Gonzalez, who has just over 1,000 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games.

I won't kid myself. I can't root against the Bengals. The draft isn't for several months, and a lot can change between now and then. Rumors are flying that Mr. Brown may be looking into hiring a general manager. If it happens, and that hire comes with some more scouts and more attention to more independent player personnel decisions, maybe the draft won't be the travesty we've all dreaded recently. Last year's draft wasn't bad, but when Keith Rivers got knocked out early, it took the wind out of a lot of fans' (and probably players') sails. The 2009 draft has to be a good one, because the team has needs in critical areas, mainly offensive and defensive lines. But, most of us know how iffy Bengals' drafts can be, too, so we'll have to see what happens, I suppose.

Three of the six CBS experts and SPiN have picked the Chiefs. Prisco and Madden are going with the Bengals. I'll be tuned in on Sunday, looking for a respectable effort and a positive outcome, win or lose, for the Bengals.

Posted on: December 21, 2008 5:14 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2008 5:24 pm

Bengals overpower ineffective Browns 14-0

The Bengals didn't have a fantastic day, particularly Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was only 5 of 9 for 55 yards, but one of those throws was a 20-yard touchdown on another great fade route to Chris Henry, Henry's only catch of the day. With Leon Hall already having returned an interception of Ken Dorsey 50 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, that would be all the scoring the Orange & Black would need to overpower an ineffective Browns team 14-0 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns just couldn't seem to get their feet under them on the frozen tundra of upstate Ohio.

One highlight of the game for the Bengals was a career day for running back Cedric Benson, who had 38 carries for 171 yards. He did to the Browns what Jamal Lewis usually does to the Bengals. Lewis was held to 76 yards on 16 carries. The Bengals had just 246 total offensive yards for the game, while the Browns had 182 total yards. The Browns amassed 137 yards total on the ground. T.J. Houshmandzadeh did nothing most of the day but puzzlingly make poor attempts to field punts. He had no receptions. He will have to get eight next week against the Chiefs in the final game of the season to make 100 for the season, and he's in danger of missing out on 1,000 yards for the year. Anthony Collins and the rest of the offensive line had a good day, giving up no sacks and opening up space for Benson to run.

The other highlight was on defense. Hall, whose play has been inconsistent this year, came up big, adding two more interceptions after the Pick Six in the first quarter. His three interceptions tie a franchise record. John Thornton had four tackles with two sacks. Brandon Johnson had seven tackles, three assists, and an interception. Dhani Jones had six tackles and an assist, and Chinedum Ndukwe and Domata Peko each had five tackles and an assist, with Ndukwe notching a sack. Chris Crocker, a great find for the Bengals, had three tackles.

Browns quarterback Dorsey was 10 of 17 for 68 yards and three interceptions. He went out of the game in the fourth quarter with a rib injury and was spelled by Bruce Gradkowski, who was 2 of 5 for 8 yards and one interception. This was not a good day for the Browns' QBs, just as it was not really a good day for Fitz.

Of the guys on the Browns I wanted to watch today (I picked Benson, Collins, Crocker and Houshmandzadeh to keep an eye on for the Bengals), Josh Cribbs had 5 carries for 32 yards, 1 kickoff return for 24 yards, and a punt return for 24 yards, an OK day, all in all. I think during better times, Cribbs would be a better producer. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers had 4 tackles and an assist, doing a decent job jamming up the middle against the Bengals run and forcing a lot of the rushes to the perimeter. Joe Thomas did a decent job on the offensive line, but Eric Steinbach had a couple of missteps, contributing to a Browns' penalty count of 9 for 65 yards.

The Bengals had another competent winning effort against a team that seems poised to come apart at the seams. The offseason is going to mean a lot to both the Bengals and the Browns.

The Bengals (3-11-1) finish out the season at home next Sunday against the Chiefs, who dropped to 2-13 after losing a close game today to the Dolphins 38-31. The Browns (4-11) finish their season next Sunday on the road against the Steelers.

Around the AFC North . . .

Steelers -- The Steelers ran into a buzz saw today in Nashville, losing 31-14 to the Titans. With the win, the Titans claim homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Steelers host the Browns next Sunday to finish out their season.

Ravens -- The Ravens got two late-game TD runs from Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain to seal the deal last night against the Cowboys 33-24.


If the Ravens can beat the Jaguars at home next Sunday, they should clinch the second AFC Wild Card bid.

Merry Christmas, everyone!



Posted on: December 17, 2008 9:23 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2008 12:34 pm

Bengals/Browns, Take Two! Ohio on edge . . .

In the second to last game for the Bengals (2-11-1) and the Browns (4-10), both teams are working to salvage positives from the 2008 season. There are more questions than answers, though, for the teams right now, as they try to maintain focus and not look toward 2009. Marvin Lewis' job seems secure (at least according to him and Mr. Brown), but what about Romeo Crennel? Will Carson Palmer come back healthy for 2009? Will it be Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson for the Browns to start the season next year?

Here's what I'm looking forward to in this matchup.

Anthony Collins, Chris Crocker, Cedric Benson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- Collins is still learning, but he has shown promise to be able to become a regular on the left side of the Bengals' offensive line. He's been burnt a few times, but more often than not, he has protected Ryan Fitzpatrick reasonably well. Crocker has become a solid presence in the Cincinnati secondary, blitzing, flying to the ball on coverage, making heads-up and hard tackles. For a guy the Bengals picked up off the street, he has become a visible and important presence in the team's defense. Benson has shown he can put up good numbers behind a functioning offensive line, and he keeps hustling. He's got the legs, and he's got the pop. I want to see more! And what can you say about T.J., who has been the most consistent, productive member of the offense this year. Approaching his second consecutive 100-catch season, and another 1,000 yard campaign, we could be seeing Housh in his swan song for the Bengals during the next two weeks.

Joe Thomas, Shaun Rogers, Eric Steinbach, Josh Cribbs -- Not having been able to watch the Browns much this season, I'm eager to see Pro Bowl selections offensive tackle Thomas (starter) and nose tackle Rogers (reserve) plying their trades. The buzz is that the two are deserving of this recognition, and I'd like to see for myself. I'm interested to see how former Bengal offensive guard Steinbach, one the Bengals shouldn't have let get away, is doing these days. And I want to see how the Bengals game-plan for Josh Cribbs, who has turned into a dynamic all-around offensive weapon for the Browns.

By The Numbers

Points per game -- Bengals 12     Browns 17

Passing Yards per game -- Bengals 159     Browns 166

Rushing Yards per game -- Bengals 80     Browns 97

Points Allowed per game -- Bengals 26     Browns 22

Passing Yards Allowed per game -- Bengals 218     Browns 216

Rushing Yards Allowed per game -- Bengals 125     147

Total Offense -- Bengals 239     Browns 263

Total Defense -- Bengals 343     Browns 364

These two teams are fairly well matched statistically across the board. If the Bengals can get the run game going behind Benson and make the best of a slight advantage in rushing yards allowed per game by the Browns, and figure out how to negate Rogers' presence in the middle, they may have an edge on the ground. The passing games are nearly even up by the averages, but Dorsey has struggled while Fitz seemed to find his game last week against the Redskins.

In this year's first edition of the Battle of Ohio, the Browns won the tilt at Paul Brown Stadium 20-12. The Browns are field-goal favorites in this game, the usual home-field advantage "tip of the hat" line for evenly matched teams. Four of the five CBS experts and SPIN pick the Bengals to win. Mr. Prisco went with the Browns.

I'll be tuned in Sunday to watch this titanic struggle. Good luck, Browns and fans! Fourteen down, two to go! The anticipation is killing me!

Around the AFC North . . .

Steelers -- The Steelers (11-3) travel to play the Titans (12-2) on Sunday. I've seen close lines from Steelers by 2 to Titans by 1. This could be the game of the week.

Ravens -- The Ravens (9-5) travel to play the Cowboys (9-5) in a Saturday night matchup. The Cowboys are 5-points favorites at home in another game that has huge playoff implications for both teams.



Posted on: December 16, 2008 8:05 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2008 8:03 am

T.J. goin' Bowling? AFC North heavy hitters

He's ninth among all AFC wide receivers and 18th overall among receivers in the NFL, with 92 catches for 904 yards (average of 9.8 yard per catch) and four touchdowns. He's poised to join a special group of receivers with consecutive 100-catch seasons during their careers. He needs eight in the season's remaining two games. He leads the NFL in third-down catches with 31. He has been a standout on a less-than-mediocre Bengals team this year, giving his best effort every week and working hard to keep morale up on a team stumbling toward the finish line of the 2008 regular season.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh was named today as a second alternate among AFC wide receivers going to the Pro Bowl on February 8 in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Housh went to last year's Pro Bowl and was the first Bengal to score two touchdowns in the NFL's equivalent to Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. Starting wide receivers for the AFC are Andre Johnson of the Texans and Brandon Marshall of the Broncos. Reserve wide receivers are Reggie Wayne of the Colts and Wes Welker of the Patriots. For T.J. to get the call, two among the starters and reserves at receiver would have to decide not to go to Hawai'i.

In a story by Geoff Hobson on the Bengals official website, Housh showed disappointment, but was resolute that he would make it back to the Pro Bowl next year, whether he's wearing a Bengals' uniform or another team's colors.

"That's OK. I'll go next year. I'll go next year wherever I am," said Houshmandzadeh.

Here is a link to the story on the Bengals' website:


Housh's comments pour fuel on the flames of speculation that he won't be back on the Bengals next year. Rumor has it that he and the team are far apart on the numbers for a new contract for T.J., who becomes a free agent in 2009. Many fans believe he is important to the success of the team next year and in the near future, but that he is not necessarily essential to that success. T.J. has said he does not believe the Bengals will put the franchise tag on him.

For this writer, I believe it is critical to bring Housh back. The Bengals need to step up to keep his leadership, his attitude and his talent in the fold. The team's wide receivers need a veteran example to follow into the future, and I believe he is that example.

Congrats, T.J., and better luck next year, wherever you may be (here's hoping it's with the Bengals).

Around the AFC North . . .

Here are lists of the players from the Ravens, Browns and Steelers who made it to the Pro Bowl as starters and reserves.

Ravens -- Fullback Le'Ron McClain (starter), Linebacker Ray Lewis (starter), Safety Ed Reed (starter), Special Teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo  (starter), Linebacker Terrell Suggs (reserve)

Browns -- Offensive Tackle Joe Thomas (starter), Defensive Tackle Shaun Rogers (reserve)

Steelers -- Linebacker James Harrison (starter), Safety Troy Polamalu (starter), Linebacker James Farrior (reserve)

Congrats to all the picks from the AFC North. I hope I didn't miss anyone, but if I did, I hope someone will point out the oversights. I haven't had time to look up the Ravens, Browns and Steelers who may be among the alternates, so if you know those, too, post 'em up!



Posted on: December 15, 2008 1:21 am

CIN/WAS Footnote: goal-line stand. BAL/PIT

I didn't want to close the book on today's Bengals versus Redskins matchup without giving the Bengals' defense one more pat on the back.

A little more than midway through the third quarter, with the score 17-10 Bengals, the Redskins had the ball second-and-goal at the Bengals'  1 yard line. Mike Sellers ran the ball up the middle into a pile of players with 6:27 left in the quarter for what looked to be a touchdown. But wait! Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who has typically been hesitant to throw the challenge flag this season, dropped one to challenge whether Sellers had broken the plane of the goal with the ball before he was down on the play. After consideration, the ruling was reversed, with the referee saying Sellers' knee was down before he extended the ball over the goal line. The Redskins went to third-and-goal at the 1/4-yard line.

On third down, the Redskins ran Sellers up the middle again, into a pile of players again, and, in the process of descending through that pile of players, still working to find the goal line, the ball was literally taken out of Sellers' hands by Bengals' linebacker Corey Mays. A fumble, turnover and touchback was ruled for the Bengals. But wait! Redskins head coach Jim Zorn challenged this ruling, believing the ball had broken the plane of the goal before Mays took the ball out of Sellers' hands. The call on the field was upheld, and the Bengals took over on their own 20.

In the fourth quarter, the teams would trade field goals, but that would be the rest of the scoring for the game. If not for the goal line stand, this game could have gone to overtime. Congrats to the Bengals' defense on the first goal-line stand. Congrats to the D on the second goal-line stand and particularly to Corey Mays for the takeaway. Congrats to the officials for getting the calls right on both plays. And congrats to Marvin Lewis for winning two challenges today, including this one.

Around the AFC North . . .

Steelers versus Ravens -- This game was all it was billed to be. These two teams beat each others' brains out for a full 60 minutes, with the Steelers coming out on top 13-9, after a controversial call on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes with less than a minute left in the game. With the win, the Steelers nab their second consecutive AFC North championship, grab a first-round playoff bye, and force the Ravens to continue their fight for a wild card bid. The Steelers travel to play the Titans next Sunday, and the Ravens play the Cowboys at Dallas in a Saturday night matchup.

Browns versus Eagles -- The Browns line up against the Eagles in Philadelphia in the Monday night matchup.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com