Power Rankings: Week 8

The Cincinnati Bengals won their two previous contests on game-winning field goals. They beat Green Bay and New England at home by margins of four and seven, respectively, with both opponents getting last minute attempts to take the lead or tie the game (respectively), both of which failed in dramatic fashion. Of the Bengals first five victories this season, the most comfortable by far was a 10-point victory against the rival Steelers on Monday Night Football.

On Sunday, Cincinnati was a 6- to 6.5-point favorite at home to beat the New York Jets, a 4-3 team with a great defense and coming off a huge win against the Patriots last week. The Bengals won on Sunday, 49-9. Gambling is for suckers.

To the Week 8 Power Rankings…

1. Marvin Jones
Twenty years ago, when he was three years old, the Counting Crows wrote a song about Marvin Jones: “Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky / But when everybody loves you, son, that’s just about as funky as you can be.” (Yeah, that song came out 20 years ago. You’re old.) Jones—who has played extremely well over the past few weeks—went banana sandwich on Sunday, snagging eight catches for 122 yards and four touchdowns (the latter a Bengals all-time record). It was his moment (Mo Egger fittingly dubbed it “The Marvin Jones Game”), the rest of the league taking notice even on a day when Calvin Johnson produced the second-most single-game receiving yards in NFL history. Smiling in the bright lights. Coming through in stereo. When everybody loves you, you can never be lonely.

2. Andy Dalton
Followed up last week’s crotch-chop “suck it” sign to the doubters with 325 yards and 5 TDs (in only three quarters, mind you). More on this in a bit.

3. Pick 6s
Two, actually. One from The Ageless Wonder Chris Crocker on the first play of the second half, providing the all but assured final nail in the coffin. The second came from the artist formerly known as Pacman Jones, which would also prove to be Geno Smith’s last play of the day for the Jets. For a franchise still haunted by the ghost of Carson Palmer, pick 6s are a terrifying proposition. Sunday, the defense took major strides toward reversing that notion, on their way to outscoring the Jets on their own with two defensive touchdowns and only nine points allowed. Marvin Lewis can only hope that he won’t have to face off against Mike Zimmer wherever Zim ultimately lands a head coaching job next year.

4. The Fourth Quarter
Significant because of how many of the Bengals starters were kicking it on the sideline during the final period. For the last few possessions, Cincinnati’s offense featured Josh Johnson, Cedric Peerman, Alex Smith, Orson Charles, Dane Sanzenbacher, and Brandon Tate at the skill positions. Brandon Thompson, Margus Hunt, Dre Kirkpatrick, Shawn Williams, and Brandon Ghee all saw snaps on the defensive side of the ball. Andy Dalton got to see the game through Zac Robinson’s eyes for a while. And seriously, how good does Zac Robinson have it, amirite?

5. Injuries
It was the only bugaboo in what was arguably the most impressive Bengals performance since they drank the Oilers’ milkshake back in December of 1989. Entering a short week when the team has to go on the road to face Miami on Thursday night, a host of Bengals got dinged up on Sunday: Whitworth, Maualuga, Mays, Sanu, and probably someone else we don’t even know about yet. It’s particularly unfortunate for Maualuga, who suffered some type of concussion/knee injury combo, particularly on a day where he made a few plays that were very un-Maualuga-esque (which is a good thing). It will be interesting to see who sits and who plays Thursday night.

Honorable Mention: AJ “The Merchandise” Green, Brandon Ghee not getting hurt, The Jerm’s TD catch, the Jerm pleading with the officials while they were discussing one of Marvin Jones’ TD catches, Brandon Tate’s kick return, Geno Smith (for the Bengals, at least).

Three-Week Rule: Dalton vs Palmer
Back in October of 2010, when I was just a dumb college journalism student at Ohio University (as opposed to the dumb professional journalist I am now), I wrote a piece titled, “The Rise and Fall of Carson Palmer.” In that piece, I came forth with the admission that I was in fact—and had been for years—a Carson Palmer apologist. I also wrote that after a conversation I had with my father, about the disappointing Bengals 2010 season to that point, that I was imposing my own three-week audition on Palmer. I was giving him three games—which at the time were against the equally mediocre Panthers, Browns, and Buccaneers—to prove to me what he still had left as a starting quarterback. In effect, I was essentially giving myself three more weeks as a Palmer apologist. The result: 65-109 for 775 yards (60 percent completion, 7.1 yards-per-attempt), 5 TDs, 5 INTs, 36.2 QBR, 77.7 QB rating, 1-2 record. I had my answer. The article was all about me recognizing the fall of Palmer, and realizing that it was time the Bengals started thinking about making a change. (Palmer clearly felt the same way; he demanded a trade after the season.)

Following the Jets game, I suddenly found myself thinking about Andy Dalton and yet another three-week showcase, though one with a vastly different outcome. The result: 69-104 for 1,034 yards (66 percent completion, 10 yards-per-attempt), 11 TDs, 2 INTs, 84.6 QBR, 122.5 QB rating, 3-0 record. (Any thoughts this week, Mr. Jackson?)

This time around, I had no self-imposed audition set for the Bengals quarterback, so it wasn’t quite under the same circumstances. And while it’s easy to pick out a QB’s most impressive three-game stretch and make some broad, sweeping claim, the end result of this three week period had the same impact as Palmer’s—this was all the evidence I needed to know that Dalton could absolutely be a championship-caliber QB for the Bengals. He won’t play like this every week. He’ll have bad games in the future. But barring unforeseen circumstances, Dalton has at least the ability to lead the Bengals to big things. The last three weeks showed me that.

Pacman being Pacman: Reports claim that Pacman Jones threatened Jets receiver David Nelson after what Jones claims was repeatedly dirty play from Nelson throughout the day. As the game continues, so too does the legend.

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