Happy Blue Friday, 12s, and welcome once again to another installment of Know Your [Bad Word] Opponent. This week we bring to you the least exciting undefeated team in football, the Cincinnati Bengals. Enjoy.
If you’re a child of the ’90s, as I am, you may remember going to pizza parlors throughout your youth and depositing quarters into machines that dispensed fun, enjoyable crap. You put a quarter in, you spun a handle, and crap came out. Think of all the things you would never need, the things you couldn’t pawn off at your mother’s garage sale for a nickel. These were the very things kids like you and I were getting out of the veritable money pits polluting the entryways of Godfather’s, Shakey’s, Azteca, Red Robin, and more. Sticky hands, super balls, flimsy keychains made in China — a plethora of junk that could entertain a group of 10-year-olds for two or three hours, at most.
More than anything else, though, we loved the miniature football helmets. Man, were those cool. A tiny piece of plastic colored to match the specs of your favorite team, along with an even tinier piece of plastic representing a facemask, complete with a sliver of a sticker proudly displaying the logo of the organization you’d just purchased for a mere quarter. It was the 25-cent collectible to end all 25-cent collectibles.
Around here, everyone wanted the Seahawks helmet, of course. No matter if the team was downright awful. An image of the pint-sized silver-and-blue replica tantalized Seattle’s youth from behind the protective glass of the machine that housed the inexpensive treasures soon to take our allowances.
With crossed fingers we threw our coins into that very machine, turned the aforementioned handle, lifted a metal flap, and looked to see what our investment had yielded. It was… orange, black, and striped like a tiger. The Bengals. The Cincinnati Freakin’ Bengals. Damn it. Not again. It was always the Bengals. And the Bengals sucked. We would have settled for the Dolphins or the Cowboys or some other team with cool colors and a few likable players. But nope. Once again, we would be adding to our blossoming collection of tiny Bengals helmets. Fuck the Bengals.
Two decades later and I have yet to cleanse myself of an irrational disdain for Cincinnati’s football team. Somewhere, in toy boxes crammed full of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hot Wheels, yo-yos, Kenner Starting Lineups, and Micro Machines exists one, if not five or six, miniature Bengals helmets. I always landed the damn Bengals. And for that, I hate the damn Bengals.
Despite a 4-0 record thus far in 2015, the Bengals still suck. Just look at them.
First of all, their quarterback is Andy Dalton, the least inspirational “good” signal-caller of all-time. Dalton is the pass-throwing equivalent of a wanking motion. Even when he does something right, he’ll later implode on himself like Charlie Conway on a power play breakaway. He is football’s Spazway and even the fans in his own city don’t like him.
Back in July, Dalton participated in festivities surrounding the MLB All-Star Game, hosted by the hometown Reds. Upon being announced to the crowd of onlookers at Great American Ballpark, the Cincinnati faithful mercilessly booed the captain of their football team. These are the same people who wet their pants for Reds’ third baseman Todd Frazier, and here they were lobbing grenades at the most recognizable Bengal. That is some cold-blooded shit, which just goes to prove how disappointing Andrew Gregory Dalton truly is.
Dalton has a penchant for winning early in seasons, then later collapsing when games start to mean something, like in the playoffs. It’s Week 5 in the NFL. Now is as good a time as any for Dalton to kick off his annual regression. It shouldn’t be too hard against a Seahawks defense that is operating at full strength since Kam Chancellor’s return a couple weeks ago.
What makes Dalton occasionally successful, though, is his primary target, receiver A.J. Green. Look, there’s nothing too awful that can be said about Green. He’s a damn good pass-catcher. He has yet to face a secondary as talented as Seattle’s this year, however. Matching up against the likes of Richard Sherman and Cary Williams, while worrying about the steamrolling safety duo of Earl Thomas and Chancellor, should mitigate some of Green’s natural playmaking ability come Sunday.
In the backfield, Cincinnati boasts a pair of running backs who aren’t good enough to outplay one another. Second-year tailback Jeremy Hill was a fantasy darling a season ago, but now can’t hold onto the football. Third-year back Giovani Bernard is just good enough to flounder on your fantasy bench every week, occasionally popping off for a big game, then slinking back into the hole he exited from like an opossum with social anxiety. Neither one of these runners should strike fear into the hearts of a defense that will exploit the vulnerable tandem and force at least one turnover from the pair before game’s end.
Tight end Tyler Eifert is Dalton’s security blanket in the passing game, having already amassed 222 yards and three touchdowns in the season’s first four contests. Eifert is an emerging threat across the league, and the Seahawks’ Achilles heel over the years has been in defending quality tight ends not named Jimmy Graham. The 6’6″ Eifert has a chance to put up big numbers on Sunday. Screw that guy for being so good.
On defense, the Bengals boast a handful of dudes you’ve never heard of, with the exception of a select few. There’s USC product Rey Maualuga, for one, who Pete Carroll coached in college. Former Packer A.J. Hawk makes an appearance, as does All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins. And then there’s Adam Pacman Jones, the embattled cornerback whose Wikipedia page has no fewer than 16 — SIXTEEN!!! — paragraphs on his extensive legal troubles.
Pacman Jones, despite having cleaned up his act of late, is a horrible human being. He’s spit on people, assaulted multiple women, beat up a stripper, and caused at least one person that we know of to end up in a wheelchair for the rest of their waking days. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg with this guy. Google “Pacman Jones” and you’ll uncover a litany of allegations, along with all the confirmed reports of his egregious misbehavior. Sure, the Greg Hardys of the world have been all over the news wire the past few seasons, but let’s not forget how evil a dude Pacman Jones is, too. This guy doesn’t deserve an ounce of anyone’s empathy. And yet the Bengals happily employ him.
Beyond all of that, let’s just examine things objectively for a moment here. Sure, Cincinnati is undefeated this season. But look at who they’ve played: Oakland, San Diego, Baltimore, and Kansas City. Four AFC teams whose combined record is an underwhelming 6-10. The Bengals are very beatable, and the Seahawks have a tremendous opportunity to steal a road victory on Sunday morning.
Do it for all the kids out there who, once upon a time, wasted their quarters on Bengals replica helmets. Nobody likes the Cincinnati Bengals. Here’s to the Seahawks.