This week's installment of our 'Surveying the Enemy' series brought me deep into the thick brush of the Cincy Jungle. It was an exotic place, filled with many hype trains surrounding Tyler Eifert and the rejuvenated Andy Dalton.
However, I escaped intact from this foreign place. Scott Bantel served as my guide as I weaved my way through the home of the jungle cats and this strange abomination they call 'chili'. While venturing through enemy territory, I was able to ask Scott a few questions about his team and Sunday's game.
1. Andy Dalton has drawn a lot of hate over the years for simply being... average. Hence the so-called 'Andy Dalton line'. While Bengals fans main issue with him is his lack of playoff success, his supporters must feel good about his above Dalton-line performance so far. So why has Dalton looked so good this year?
The thing that frustrates fans so much when it comes to Dalton (and there are a lot of fans for whom Dalton can do no right), is that although his stats are average, he rarely is. Alex Smith is an average quarterback that is average all the time. He rarely has great games, but he also rarely has bad games. Dalton is the exact opposite. I refer to it as ‘Good Andy’ and ‘Bad Andy’…’Average Andy’ only exists on the stats page. He either plays very well or very poorly, but rarely has average games. With ‘Good Andy,’ this team can beat anyone. With ‘Bad Andy,’ they can lose to anyone. What I have noticed this year with Dalton is he looks comfortable. Some of that has to do with having all of his weapons back, but it seems as though things have slowed down for him - he isn’t forcing passes and when a play is not there to be made, he has thrown the ball away.
2. With Jeremy Hill's two fumbles this past week, and Gio's dominance, how can we expect the Bengals backfield to look moving forward?
Hill and Bernard are the perfect complimentary backs. While they both are very good running backs on their own - both have breakaway speed and both can be starting running backs - as a tandem, they form what I believe to be the best one-two punch in the NFL. Hill is the big powerful downhill runner that can wear a defense down and is your typical "Bell Cow" type back. Bernard is the quick shifty back that can take advantage of the defense once Hill wears them down, but he also has the hands and route running ability of a wide receiver and is so dangerous in space. So, this was going to be a split backfield no matter what, even before Hill’s fumbling. Before the season I felt like a 70/30 split in favor of Hill (as far as carries go) would be ideal for the Bengals offense, and that was the case in Week 1. However, Bernard has actually been the more effective runner thus far (Bernard: 186 yards and 6.6 YPC; Hill: 102 yards and 3.5 YPC), and combined with Hill’s fumbling issue, I think you will see that split be closer to 50/50 over the next few weeks until Hill gets rolling and proves to the coaches that he can hold onto the football.
3. It's only Week 3, but the Bengals sit atop the AFC North. Do you expect them to keep it up?
4. After two disappointing injury-filled seasons, Tyler Eifert has really broken out onto the scene. This has drastically cut into A.J. Green's production. Should fans get used to a more balanced offense, rather than one that centered on Green in years' past?
Most definitely. Along with Eifert being healthy, the Bengals also got their No. 2 receiver back, Marvin Jones, who also missed all of 2014. With Jones and Eifert healthy, along with one of the better running attacks in the league, the Bengals will spread the ball around far more than they have in the past…and that is a good thing (unless you are an A.J. Green fantasy owner). Many of Dalton’s interceptions the past four years have been the result of forcing the ball to Green and he won’t need to do that in 2015. While I would still expect Green to still have 80+ catches and 1,000+ yards, he won’t have a 95+ catch, 1,300 yard seasons like he has in the past.
5. Skyline, or Goldstar? You knew this was coming.
Skyline. I am very loyal to Skyline and can’t remember the last time I had Goldstar. That being said, if you invite me to a party for the AFC North SB Nation writers and offer me Goldstar, I will destroy it just like I would Skyline. Many in the city will not cross lines on this debate, they are one or the other. Not me. While I prefer Skyline, I find both to be very delicious.
Obligatory score prediction as well.