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.

Posted on: December 14, 2008 5:25 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2008 8:46 pm

Bengals 20 Redskins 13 - Who were those guys?

Maybe it's that the Bengals like torturing teams from the NFC East. Maybe it's that the Bengals like torturing their fans, tantalizing us with a win here and there and trying to lull us into continued complacency. Maybe a little of both.

The Bengals (2-11-1) played competently on both sides of the ball today, competently enough to hand the Redskins (7-7) a 20-13 loss at Paul Brown Stadium and deal probably irreparable damage to the Redskins' already-slim playoff hopes. The Bengals scored on their first possession of the game, a rarity for them, and stayed in control, more or less for the rest of the game. It got a little dicey late in the fourth quarter, after special teams gave up an 87-yard kickoff return to Rock Cartwright, which would have been a touchdown if not for a Leon Hall tackle to stop him. The score at the time was 20-10, and the Bengals held the Redskins to a field goal on the possession to seal the win. This was Hall's most important contribution of the day, as he was overmatched covering Santana Moss, who had seven catches for 72 yards and a touchdown on the day.

Guys who haven't shown up for the Bengals recently played today like they actually cared. Chad Ocho Cinco had three catches for 33 yards and looked fired up, though there were a couple of lapses where it looked like he and Ryan Fitzpatrick were not on the same page in the playbook. Chris Henry, who earlier this season I blogged had outlived his usefulness, had four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. I'm still not sold he belongs on this team, but he showed his best stuff today. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had three catches for 19 yards, a down day for him, but his total catches for the year now stand at 92, putting him eight away from a second consecutive 100-catch season, with two games left to play.

Ryan Fitzpatrick outplayed Redskins' quarterback Jason Campbell in this game. Fitz was 16 of 29 for 209 yards and the TD to Chris Henry, with a perfect toss on a beautiful fade route to the corner of the end zone. Fitz also had 11 carries for 29 yards and a rushing TD on the team's first possession. The offensive star of the day for the Bengals was Cedric Benson, who had 21 carries for 73 yards and three receptions for 88 yards. Benson did not score, but he chewed up yards and he chewed up clock. The offensive line, though they allowed two sacks on Fitz, played well today, allowing Fitz time to make good passes and allowing Benson to find some running room. Shayne Graham also notched two fields goals for the offense.

The Redskins did not play like a team fighting to stay in playoff contention. Campbell was 17-of-28 for 167 yards and the touchdown to Santana Moss. Clinton Portis had 25 carries for 77 yards, with Campbell next behind him with two carries for 21 yards. Tight end Chris Cooley had six catches for 51 yards. Shaun Suisham also kicked two field goals for the Redskins.

The Bengals defense played well today, as they have for about three quarters of almost every game this year, and the offense got enough done to allow the D some time to rest during the game, a luxury they almost never have. The Orange & Black had a reasonably complete effort on both sides of the ball.

Perhaps the pressure of trying to recover from going 1-4 after a 6-2 start got to the Redskins. Perhaps the behind-the-scenes troubles between Portis and head coach Jim Zorn were playing out on the field today. This loss likely puts the Redskins out of playoff contention, but we'll wait 'til the end of the day to see where they will stand.

For the Bengals, another win is good, but not great. Hopefully, this will not be the "gloss" that Mr. Brown was waiting to see to reassure him that he is still smart enough or savvy enough to stay in control of the on-the-field product. Bengals' fans are not happy, and this was reflected in the fact that tickets for the game were on StubHub this week for less than $20.

Next up for the Bengals, they head to Cleveland to finish out this year's conference schedule. I look for another intense edition of the Browns versus Bengals rivalry. After that, the Bengals wrap the season against the Chiefs at Paul Brown Stadium. Then, it's on to the draft!

Posted on: December 12, 2008 9:57 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2008 10:19 pm

Redskins @ Bengals -- a cheap date?

Rumor has it you can score a ticket to this Sunday's Redskins versus Bengals game on StubHub for less than $20. I even heard on a Cincinnati TV news program this morning that some were being sold, I'm not sure if it was on StubHub or another vendor, for as little as $5. Some people are so turned off now and prepared to turn the page on the Bengals' 2008 season that they are literally tossing their tickets. These numbers are brutal.

Here are some more brutal numbers . . .

By The (you guessed it!) Numbers

Points per game -- Bengals 12     Redskins 17

Passing Yards per game -- Bengals 156     Redskins 199

Rushing Yards per game -- Bengals 78     Redskins 133

Points Allowed per game -- Bengals 27     Redskins 19

Passing Yards Allowed per game -- Bengals 222     Redskins 188

Rushing Yards Allowed per game -- Bengals 126     Redskins 95

Total Offense -- Bengals 234     Redskins 332

Total Defense -- Bengals 348     Redskins 283

The Bengals are limping toward the end of this season, entering a game against an opponent still nominally competing for a playoff spot. The Redskins total an average 100 yards more offensively per game than the Bengals while allowing an average of 65 less yards on defense. It's amazing, all things being equal, that Ryan Fitzpatrick has been able to throw enough passes to be even close to a 156 yard per game passing average, a low number anyway, but the weakness in the running game is what really hurts the Bengals. With a nominally performing offensive line, low on starters because of a ridiculous number of injuries, the Bengals can't rely on any dimension of the offense to produce points. Touchdowns are virtual miracles now, as the Bengals have gone 11 consecutive quarters without one. Place kicker Shayne Graham is providing the only offense now, literally, kicking one field goal in a 34-3 loss against the Ravens and one field goal in a 35-3 loss to the Colts in the Bengals' last two games.

I can see Jason Campbell coming through when his team needs him the most. The Bengals have a chance to play spoiler again, but, so far this year, they haven't been able to take advantage of many of the opportunities presented to them. Washington enters this matchup on a two-game losing streak, having lost 23-7 to the Giants and 24-10 to the Ravens. One win, a 20-17 nail-biter against the Seahawks, was sandwiched between two more losses to the Steelers and the Cowboys. The Redskins are hampered severely by injuries right now, though not quite as many as the Bengals. And the team is confronting some "internal" issues, with head coach Jim Zorn verbally sparring with running back Clinton Portis earlier this week before the two buried the hatchet, and no, not in each other's heads. Portis and Zorn claim to be "on the same page" now.  If the Redskins hope to even maintain the illusion of playoff relevance, struggling to stay in the NFC Wild Card race, they must beat the Bengals.

The Bengals are touchdown underdogs at home, again. I think this line has more to do with the Redskins' injury and team woes than with the Bengals' chances of winning. If the Redskins were in better shape, the line would probably by nine or 10 points in their favor. Two of the five CBS experts have picked the Bengals to win this game. They must be seeing something I haven't seen. The Bengals' modus operandi of late has been to have one or two competent possessions before finding ways, sometimes new and exciting ways, to essentially hand the games to their opponents and to allow the opponents to run away with the games. For evidence, see the 34-3 loss to the Ravens and the 35-3 loss to the Colts. Nothing more need be said.

Posted on: December 10, 2008 10:43 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2008 10:45 pm

AFC North: the early lines - Fun with numbers!

This week offers a range of opening lines confronting the teams in our favorite conference, the AFC North.

-- The Bengals (1-11-1) are touchdown underdogs at home to the Redskins (7-6). The Bengals are now in "13 down, three to go" mode, while the Redskins struggle to maintain relevance in the NFC East. The Redskins desperately need a win. The Bengals are still wondering if Carson Palmer will play in the last two weeks of the season (puh-leeeeeeeezzzzz!!!).  Considering how the Ravens picked the Redskins apart last week, the Bengals may have a shot here. Wait, who am I kidding! But, you know I'll be watching and rooting for my favorite bunch of perennial NFL losers!

-- In what may be the Game of the Week, the Ravens (9-4) are two-point favorites at home against the Steelers (10-3). The Ravens have hit their stride, and the Steelers continue to find ways to win in close games. This is a showdown of epic proportions. The Steelers need the win to stay atop the AFC North. A Ravens win would bring a tie for the conference lead and make the last two games on their schedules that much more meaningful for both teams. Pittsburgh enters the game on a four-game win streak, including last week's late-game emotional win over the Cowboys. The Ravens enter the game on a three-game streak of their own, including 29+-point wins over the Eagles and the Bengals and a two-touchdown win over the Redskins last week. Whichever way it goes, both these teams are likely destined for the playoffs. The line is less than the usual field-goal tip of the hat for home-field advantage, so this is essentially a "pick 'em" game.

-- The Browns (4-9) travel to meet the Eagles (7-5-1), who are two-touchdown favorites. The Eagles are 2-1 since the tie against the Bengals and feeling the momentum after a 48-20 win over the Cardinals and an important 20-14 conference win over the rival Giants. The Eagles need a win to keep pace with the Cowboys and the Redskins in the AFC East, since the Giants already have clinched the division and a playoff spot. The Browns enter this game on a three-game losing streak, including a 28-9 loss last week to the Titans. Even though their record is better than the Bengals', I believe the Browns are already in "Let's get this thing over with" mode, much as the Bengals are. The spread seems a bit generous, but with the Eagles at home on a roll and the Browns ready to call it done for this year, the Eagles could put it on them.

Look for an in-depth Redskins versus Bengals preview before this week's game.



Posted on: October 15, 2008 12:13 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2008 4:34 pm

Running backs at a premium now -- What's up?

At least two notable teams ran into problems at the running back position this week.

The Colts have placed rookie Mike Hart on injured reserve with a season-ending knee injury. Joseph Addai is out with a hamstring injury that is still being evaluated. Clifton Dawson has been signed, and Chad Simpson has been signed to the active roster from the practice squad.

The Redskins signed Shaun Alexander to a one-year deal to back up Clinton Portis while Ladell Betts is recovering from a knee injury.

I haven't had a chance to look just yet. Does anybody know of any other teams dealing with significant injury issues at the running back position?

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