Pressure.

The Cincinnati Bengals and January. Two things that typically don’t go well together. On Sunday, they have a chance to repair their relationship, and provide a jolt of positive energy to a city and fan base that desperately needs it. Cincinnati will travel to Indianapolis to take on Andrew Luck and the Colts on Sunday at 1:05 PM. In October, the Colts handled the Bengals rather easily, beating them 27-0 in Indianapolis.

These two teams are both quite different now than they were on October 19th. Cincinnati was without their three starting linebackers, AJ Green, and Jeremy Hill was just getting his feet wet in Hue Jacksons offense. Andy Dalton was 18/38 for 126 yards. The Bengals only had 135 yards on the day. Andrew Luck shredded the Bengals defense going 27/42 for 344 yards and 2 TD’s.

Because of the major changes between the two teams, much of that game can be thrown out the window. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Bengals exercised their primetime demons at home against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, now it’s time to exercise the playoff demons at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts have not been playing good football as of late, and their offensive line has struggled to protect Andrew Luck as of late. On top of all that, the Colts running game has been virtually non existent in recent weeks.

As expected, it all falls on the shoulders of Andrew Gregory Dalton. It’s no secret the Red Rifle has struggled in the playoffs, and where he goes, the offense goes with him. This game and this team is more suited to Andy’s strength by keeping the offense going with short, horizontal passes, and a run game that relies on rookie Jeremy Hill.

The most important aspect of the game for the Bengals is the pressure of the defensive line on Andrew Luck. Last week against  Pittsburgh the pressure was laughable, and there really wasn’t any at all. The most important part of any defense is the defensive line. When the line is playing well, it makes the jobs of the linebackers and secondary much easier. If Andrew Luck is given four to six seconds to throw the ball every play, it will be a long day for Cincinnati’s secondary.

The time has come for the Cincinnati Bengals to win a playoff game. Optimism is high among Bengals fans, and this matchup gives them every reason to be.

It all comes down to Monday night

The skies are dark, and the lights are bright. As you walk through the Queen City you can just feel it. What is “it”? That’s a great question. No one really knows how to describe “it”. There is just this energy around the city, around the stadium. This isn’t a typical game day in Cincinnati. This is Monday night.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend two Monday night games at Paul Brown Stadium. They are undoubtedly my favorite games to go to, because the atmosphere is so much different. Everyone in the stadium knows that this is national television, and all eyes are on us.

There is this energy in the stadium that is impossible to explain, and even harder to describe it. It’s one of those times when you just have to be there. When the starters are announced and the fireworks go off, the fans stand and cheer, the stadium erupts as loud as you’ve ever heard it.

As the kickoff teams take the field and the music blares around the stadium, the energy reaches its peak. Everything all week has led up to this game. There are no other games going on, all sports eyes are on the Worldwide Leader as they broadcast live from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Finally, kickoff. The energy is released as the stadium roars and the game is underway. In the two Monday night games I’ve been to, the Bengals have faced two quarterbacks that will be enshrined in Canton one day. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. This Monday night, they will face another. Peyton Manning.

Whether you watch him on television or in person there is no doubt that Peyton Manning is fascinating to watch. In my time, I’ve never seen someone so in control when he’s on the field. As a fan, he is absolutely terrifying. We have seen it time and time again as he just picks apart the defense and drives down the field for a touchdown.

Perhaps the most terrifying thing as a Bengals fan isn’t the fact that it’s Peyton Manning on the other side of the field, but that this game is being played on Monday Night Football. It is no secret that the Bengals like to fall on their face when they play in primetime. They are 0-2 in primetime this season with losses at New England (SNF) and home against Cleveland (TNF).

September 16, 2013. The last time the Cincinnati Bengals won a primetime game. It was a 20-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium, on Monday Night Football. As you may have guessed, Andy Dalton played terrible that night and it was the defense that bailed the offense out.

Cincinnati’s defense has not been very good this season, but the last few weeks the defense has been playing much better. Coming off a 30-0 shutout at Cleveland and Johnny Football, the defense is feeling confident. What we saw on Sunday is what we haven’t seen all season, a pass rush.

Pressuring the quarterback is easily the most important part of the defense and it is what has made Cincinnati’s defense so good these last few seasons. Peyton Manning has struggled in the past when he faces pressure and that’s no secret. With no pass rush, it’s nearly impossible for the secondary to cover for very long as we have seen all season.

There are all sorts of moving parts as we inch closer to Monday Night Football on ESPN. Not to mention all the playoff scenarios that come into play. Denver has already clinched their playoff spot, but now they are playing for the number one overall seed and a first round bye. Cincinnati is trying to sneak their way in, and its simple: win and they’re in.

We have heard it a thousand times, and it has never been more true than it is this week against the Denver Broncos. For the Bengals, it all comes down to Monday night.

Friday Preview: Titans at Bengals; NFL Blackout Rule

Week 3

The Bengals kick off Week 3 of the NFL season on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium. The Titans are 1-1 and lost to Dallas 26-10 on Sunday at LP Field. The Titans won their season opener on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of, ironically, 26-10. The season opening win was undoubtedly an impressive one, but last weeks performance was not. Tennessee managed just two first downs in the first half against the notorious Dallas Cowboys defense. Cincinnati won their home opener last week, beating the Atlanta Falcons 24-10. Sundays win coming just a week after beating division rival Baltimore on the road to open the season.

The Titans are led by quarterback Jake Locker, the teams 8th overall draft pick in 2011. Locker’s career has not gotten off to a good start however, with a lot of injuries, interceptions, and losses piling up. Tennessee has a decent offense, with few weapons. Wide receivers Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker are the main targets for Locker. Walker had 10 receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown last week. Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster are the team’s running backs, and they have struggled so far this season, combining for just 170 yards on the season.

Defensively, Tennessee isn’t bad. They ranked 14TH in the NFL last season in total defense. The secondary is definitely the strongest part of the team, led by cornerback Jason McCourty, and safeties Bernard Pollard and Michael Griffin. This could bode well for Tennessee going up against a battered group of Cincinnati wide receivers.

What to Expect

Last week the Bengals racked up 170 yards on the ground last week, and you can expect Hue Jackson to be dialing up more of the same this week against Tennessee. Giovani Bernard will be the main go to for Cincinnati, as wide receiver AJ Green is questionable with a toe injury. You can expect Gio to get 25-35 touches on Sunday, whether it be on the ground, or through the air. If Green is unable to go on Sunday, look for the Bengals to get the ball to tight end Jermaine Gresham. With Tennessee having such good cornerbacks, and the Bengals having a beat up receiving corps, the Bengals will be looking for the best matchup, which will probably be Gresham against a linebacker.

Tennessee will have their hands full, with a tough Bengals defense all the way around. The Titans need to establish a running game, and you can expect them to try to pound the ball with Shonn Greene against a Bengals defensive line that has been average so far this season. Pro Bowler Geno Atkins’, who is seeing more and more snaps each week coming back from last season’s ACL tear, will play a big role in stopping the run game. Also, the Titans could be doing what the Bengals are doing as well, by trying to get the ball to their tight end Craig Stevens. It is unlikely that the Bengals will have linebacker Vontaze Burfict on the field Sunday after he suffered his second concussion of the season last week. This gives Tennessee a chance to get some good matchups against young guy Vincent Rey, and the always slow, late, and below average Rey Maualuaga.

All signs point to the Bengals winning this game rather easily, as they have matchup advantages all over the field, and even more so if AJ Green suits up for the Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

Prediction

 

My official prediction is that the Bengals will win this one and advance to 3-0 on the season heading into their Week 4 Bye.

Bengals 28, Titans 10

Additional Notes

 

The forecast for Sunday in Cincinnati calls for a kickoff temperature of around 70 degrees. There is a 50% chance of rain on Sunday, with some morning thunderstorms expected. If it rains, and it lingers into the afternoon, it could have an impact on the game.

NFL Blackouts

 

For what felt like the one hundred thousandth time, the Bengals headlines this week were dominated by whether or not the Bengals would sell out Sunday’s game and avoid a local television blackout. For those that don’t know the rule, each team has to sell 85-100% of the tickets available for the game each week. The Bengals are one of the teams that opted to go with the 85% rule. If a team does not reach that threshold of tickets sold, the game will be blacked out on television anywhere within 75 miles of the stadium.

This is a problem that the Bengals have faced before, and almost always, they end up selling the tickets. That does not mean there isn’t controversy, though. The people that are so quick to talk about how the Bengals can’t sell out a game are the same people who are sitting on their couch watching each week. If you’re going to talk and make a big deal about it, then get off your couch and go to the game. Otherwise, just keep your mouth shut.

Now listen, I understand not everyone is going to be able to go to a game, and I understand that. Tickets are expensive, and home is more comfortable. I respect that, because for a majority of Bengals games each year, that’s what I am doing too.

Let’s look at the real issue, though. The rule is stupid and it should be removed. I know that it has been under the microscope as of late and it has even been taken to the FCC and it is unlikely that this rule will still be standing 5 years from now, but the NFL has no one to blame but themselves. They have made the home viewing experience better than anything else. Sure, technological advances have helped out too, with huge HD TV’s and surround sound, but it’s also a lot cheaper in a number of ways.

I can pay $100 and get every game for the entire season, and I don’t have to worry about gas or parking or other stupid fans, and the beer is a lot cheaper too. The NFL has no one to blame for the blackout rule nearing it’s death but themselves.

Another thing that really grinds my gears is the people that bad mouth NFL fans based on the way they act at the game. They then continue on to talk about how their kids heard bad language and they were offended. The solution is simple: don’t take your kids to games. What do you expect at an NFL game? Rainbows and unicorns? No, people will be loud and rowdy and they will be drunk and they will be cursing. That is the nature of the beast and that is what you signed up for when you bought the tickets. Not all 65,000 people in the stadium are like that, but you can’t be surprised when you end up sitting next to them. Take your kid when they are older, it’s not that hard.

As always, thanks for reading. Who Dey.

-Auty

Super Bowl XLVIII

Super Bowl XLVIII

This weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year, but it is also one of my least favorite weekends of the year. The fact that this is the biggest and most important game of the NFL season, and it’s the final game of the season. There are really no words to describe how big the Super Bowl really is and how much it means to either team. The Super Bowl city, in this case the New York and New Jersey area, is literally the epicenter of football, and it’s an awesome experience. I got the chance to go to Indianapolis in 2012 for the Giants and the Patriots. I didn’t go to the game, but I got to experience all the things that go along with a Super Bowl city. It was one of the best days of my life.

These two teams are no doubt the two best teams in the NFL. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. At the beginning of the season, I picked Denver and Seattle in the Super Bowl. A safe pick, and it turns out I was right. Now I just don’t know who to pick in the actual game. There’s a case for each team, and in my opinion, it really is a push. So let’s look at each team and decide what they have to do to be world champions on Sunday night.

DENVER

The Broncos have the best offense, and the best QB in the NFL. They have a terrific offensive line that has been able to protect Peyton Manning all season long, and one of the reasons he has had such a good season. They have wide receivers that are strong, physical, athletic, and smart. They have depth at every position on offense including running back and tight end. Depth is important because the Seahawks will key on certain players in the game like Decker, Thomas, Welker, and Moreno, creating opportunities for guys like Andre Caldwell, Montee Ball, and Virgil Green.

Defensively, they have struggled at times during the season, but have overall played well. They have a good defensive line led by Shaun Phillips and “Pot Roast” Terrance Knighton. The linebacker position is solid with Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan. In the secondary, Champ Bailey is finally getting the chance to play in the Super Bowl after a long, hall of fame career. Back there with him is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The secondary may be the most important part of the game for Denver, and could give them an advantage.

 

SEATTLE

The Seahawks have the best defense, and the best CB in the NFL. The Legion of Boom is by far the reason they have had so much success in 2013. The way they communicate, play physically, and make plays on the ball are what give them an advantage. The Seahawks defensive line has gone somewhat unnoticed so far this season, and they a very important part of the defense, clogging the run and pressuring the quarterback all season long. Linebackers Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner will be critical in Sundays game because of the speed and crossing routes the Broncos like to run.

Offensively, it starts with Russell Wilson. Wilson has struggled as of late, and it has been showing. Seattle’s offense has struggled, and it isn’t going to get easier with Denver’s secondary. The offensive line has to be able to protect Wilson, and let him step up in the pocket to make the throws. Percy Harvin will be back, and he can be a game changer, if he can just play the whole game without getting hurt. You better believe Denver will be bringing it whenever Harvin is on the field. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin will need to be able to get down the field and play fast against a quick secondary in Denver. The most important part of the offense for Seattle is Marshawn Lynch. They need to give him the ball and keep giving him the ball all day. He will bust one eventually, and he will be running with an attitude in the biggest game of his life, against a team that has played great run defense in the playoffs.

 

WHO WINS?

Peyton Manning has had 2 weeks to prepare for this Seattle defense, and you better believe he will be ready. The Broncos all season long, have been able to run long, crossing routes across the field and Seattle has struggled against that at times this season. Look for Denver to run play action from tight formations with the receivers close to the formation. This gives Denver an advantage by bringing the linebackers up on the play action and throwing the crossing routes behind them. Keep in mind that Seattle has only faced ONE top ten offense this season. Yes, ONE.

Passing Game: Denver

Marshawn Lynch has been beast mode throughout the season, and I expect that to continue in Super Bowl XLVIII. He has to get the ball early and often. Denver’s defensive line has been good but not great, and a strong Seattle running game will open up things in the passing game for Russell Wilson, and cause problems for the Broncos defense.

Running Game: Seattle

Defensively, there is nothing Seattle can’t handle. They have the best secondary, and one of the top defensive lines in the NFL. I expect them to bring a lot of pressure at Peyton Manning, meaning Peyton has to get rid of the ball early, and not have chances to throw the ball down the field. This ball hawking secondary will be licking their chops with the guys up front pinning their ears back and rushing Peyton.

Defense: Seattle

We all know that football is not just offense and defense, it’s also special teams. Denver has playmakers at every position on special teams and that in itself can be a game changer. Trindon Holliday will have an impact on the game on Sunday. Seattle has struggled on special teams multiple times this season. Denver has the best kicker in the NFL in Matt Prater, and he will also play a big role in the game, especially with Seattle’s defense causing problems for Manning and stalling drives.

Special Teams: Denver

 

So there you go. It’s a push. I have been having a hard time trying to decide who I am going with, but I’ve decided it’s time to ride! All week I have been getting a feeling about a Peyton Manning drive to end the game, and solidify Peyton’s legacy as one of the greatest of all time. I predict Peyton will lead the Broncos down the field will :04 remaining, and Matt Prater will kick a 42 yard game winning field goal to give Denver their 3rd Vince Lombardi Trophy.

 

Denver 31

Seattle 30

 

What do you think? Let me know by heading over to the Daily Poll tab, and making your pick!

You’re doing it wrong…

For awhile now I have had this blog post on my mind, but not until today did I know what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. Even now, I’m still not completely sure how this is going to turn out. But you’re here right? Okay then. The last time I posted it was in October when I talked about the Pro Bowl, and I haven’t used the blog much since then. I like blogging, but in the past couple months something has become apparent to me…I’m doing it wrong.

In the last month or so after Christmas and into the start of the new year I have been feeling a little different. It feels like I have matured a lot during that time. I’m not sure what it is, maybe it’s a semester of college under my belt, maybe its the holidays and seeing my family, I don’t know. I can say I’ve never felt this way before and I like it.

On twitter the other day I saw a quote that said, “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” In a way, that’s what I have been doing. Or at least trying to. Trying to talk less and listen more, read more, etc. I’ve been reading a lot lately. Articles and columns and all sorts of things and by doing that I have come to the conclusion that I have been doing it wrong.

This blog has always been about sports and for the longest time I tried too hard to fit in and be a columnist or a professional writer. I spent too much time trying to be someone I’m not. In my writing, I can’t be Bill Plashcke or a Woody Paige. I have to be Austin Elmore. I have to be me and find my own personal style in writing and then go from there. I think in life we try too hard just to fit in and do what everyone else is doing. It doesn’t have to be that way. What’s stopping you from being you?

Some of my best posts on this blog have been the ones that I didn’t see coming or forced myself to write. They were the ones that came off the top of my head like the one I’m writing right now. So my goal for the rest of this year, and for the rest of my life to be honest, is to continue to find myself and be myself in writing, my job in the future, and life in general.

During this time I guess I have been finding who I am. We are coming up on this time of the year where it’s kind of  boring between the end of football and the beginning of baseball, and I feel like that is where I am in my life. The boring part where I am just working to get to the ultimate goal of being on radio or writing about sports. It’s not easy, it’s not particularly fun, but I am having a good time and just taking things easy.

There are times when I wish I would have never gone to Edison and just went to NKU and got things going. Then there are times when I know I made the right decision of going here and getting things out of the way and preparing myself to go. I am sitting here in a little café area away from the main part of the campus. I see all kinds of different faces every single day. I see faces of confusion, anger, sadness, happiness, focus, etc. I see diversity. I see people like me that are just working toward a goal every day.

Therefore, as I go forward the blog isn’t going to be the same it has been in the past, it’s going to be more like this with more of my personal opinion and attitude towards differing topics in sports and in life. My goal for this is to continue to find myself and find my style of writing. I plan on using the blog as a chance to get things off my chest and pose questions to those who are reading it. I am not going to sit here and promise to use it more because I’ve done that before and I don’t always hold up to that. I get busy sometimes, everyone does. I will write when I feel necessary.

So as I go forward with finding myself in the world and in writing, I challenge you to do the same. I challenge you to read more and think more. I challenge you to look around and be a people watcher. I am happy with myself and with who I am. You should be too. When you have something you want, go get it. Work for it. Do whatever it takes to achieve your goal and be proud of that. Be proud of who you are and your abilities. Be thankful for the things God has blessed you with, and the people he has put you around. There are always tough times in life, but the beauty of life is that it goes on. Don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing, because if you do that, you’re doing it wrong.

What should be done about PEDs, and the 2013 Bengals today on the Blog….

Baseball season is going well, and it’s been a great season so far, but it doesn’t seem right if there isn’t some sort of outrage about Steroids. Ryan Braun was recently suspended the remainder of this season, which in a way might be able to help the Brewers by possibly giving them a better pick in the draft. Oh, and Ryan Braun still gets his $100M. It was revealed in December 2011 that Braun tested positive for steroids during the 2011 season, in which he won the MVP. Braun accused the person who administered the test as handling it incorrectly and eventually got out of it. Not anymore. Now Braun, Alex Rodriguez, and many others are on the verge of getting suspended as well.

At what point does Major League Baseball put a stop to this? At what point do they try to fix what’s wrong with baseball players today? Not all players juice, I know that. However, if they can and get away with, they will. Why do I say that? Because they have and they are. Especially when they get to keep their money.

So here is what I think Major League Baseball should do. It’s actually pretty simple, a 2 Strike system. The first time you test positive you get suspended for one season, plain and simple. The second time you test positive you’re done for life. No coming back. That’s it, you’re done. Also, with every single contract in baseball there should be something for teams. If you test positive a second time and receive the lifetime ban, the teams void your contract, and keep the money they were supposed to give you. That’s the only way it will stop. Players don’t take MLB’s punishment serious enough, and by doing that they will.

Thank God it’s football season now, right? The Bengals are about to report to training camp and get the ball rolling on their 2013 season. A season that seems to have some very high expectations from people all around the league. As a Bengals fan I see this team differently than I think a lot of the national media and other people do. I’m the type of person that I’m not sold on it until I see it. A lot of people thought that last year was the changing of the guard with the Bengals going to the playoffs in back to back years, and beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Yes, I believe the Bengals are better than the Steelers now but I don’t think much after that. The Ravens are still the Super Bowl champs.

Do the Bengals have the talent? Yes. Do they have the coaching? Ehh, I’d say so. There were some very head scratching moments from the Bengals in 2012, the biggest of which was the playoff game in Houston where AJ Green had 5 catches for 80 yards. I always hold back on saying much or getting too excited about the Bengals because lets be honest, they have let us down before.

In my opinion the most important things for the Bengals this season are the offensive line and the secondary. I think with the addition of Tyler Eifert to join Jermaine Gresham, Mohamed Sanu, and AJ Green in the receiving corps will be a huge addition and will benefit the running game, and the passing game. The offensive line has to play healthy and consistently if the offensive wants to reach its full potential. The running game is also going to be critical, The Law Firm will almost undoubtedly start the season as the teams number one running back, but it will be interesting to see as the season plays out, how they will use rookie running back Giovani Bernard in the offense. A guy who thrives out in space and can be a change-of-pace back.

Defensively, the line is the best in the NFL and I have no worries about them at all. The addition of Margus Hunt to go along with Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson has the potential to be lethal. Then you have the young DT’s of Geno Atkins, Devon Still, and Brandon Thompson to go with the veteran leadership of Domata Peko and Robert Geathers. The linebackers will have to play big this season or else the defense could be in trouble. Every Sunday I find myself scratching my head watching Rey Maualuga play. We’ll see if Vontaze Burfict was a fluke or not, and if Rookie Sean Porter can make an impact. Emmanuel Lamur and Vinny Rey will also be critical in the success of the defense. The secondary has to play consistently this year as well. Leon Hall, Adam Jones, and Terence Newman are your 3 starting cornerbacks, with Chris Lewis-Harris and Dre Kirkpatrick back there too, if he’s healthy. The safeties will be Taylor Mays and Reggie Nelson, but can both of them play smart enough to not hurt the team? I think Nelson can, but I don’t know about Taylor Mays.

I expect this Bengals team to be a good team. They don’t have an easy schedule, they have to show up and play football with the big boys of the NFL or else this season will end just like the others, with disappointment. I think the Bengals have it in them, and I think they can win this division and make a run in the playoffs. I’m excited to see how all of this shapes up in camp by watching Hard Knocks on HBO again. HBO released two teaser videos for this season of Hard Knocks and you can watch those here: http://itsh.bo/164xj8i

Thanks for reading, please tweet me your opinion on PEDs, the Bengals, or anything else by tweeting @AutyElmore. Let me know what you thought of the blog as well, thanks!