Sunday the Bengals face off against the Oakland Raiders. This has all the trappings - no pun intended, well, yes it is, actually - of a trap game. The Bengals are coming off a huge victory over the Steelers to go 5-0 in the AFC North. The Raiders are 2-7 and are woeful. The Bengals might just be looking past the miserable Raiders.
So I'm nervous over this one.
I tell myself not to be, but that was how I felt when they squared off against the Texans at home . . . and lost to an inferior team.
But still . . .
The Bengals should trounce the Raiders.
I mean - now that the Bengals are actually on the verge of putting together a winning season - the Raiders are the worst run organization in the NFL - if not in all of sports. Al Davis is senile dinosaur. They could field a great track team, but they can't win many games in the NFL. They have squandered draft picks like few others (errr . . . the Bengals could give them a run for their money, though) - Michael Huff (a top 10 defensive back from Texas a few years ago that has done next to nothing in his NFL career), Robert Gallery (selected second overall back in 2004, but has bombed as a tackle and has only been okay as a guard . . . not what you want out of the second pick in the entire draft), Derrick McFadden (the super-talented back from Arkansas who was another top ten pick but who has done squat for the Raiders), Jamarcus Russell (the top pick overall from just a few years ago has just been benched in favor of a journeyman), and now Darius Hayward-Bey (the kid Al Davis shocked the world with when he took him 7th overall when most thought he'd go later . . . and who can hardly catch).
The Bengals come in with a five game road win streak. Sure, they have never won in Oakland before, but that was when Oakland was actually a formidable opponent.
The Bengals - if they truly deserve to be the second best team in the AFC - should win this game relatively easily. They can pound the ball. Yes, Ced Benson will almost certainly miss the game with his hip injury, but the Bengals signed Larry Johnson to help ease the load (and Johnson has always played well against the Raiders) and they basically beat the Steelers without Benson last week. They should be able to hit a few big plays as well to Ochocinco. Sure, he is going up against the NFL's top corner, but Ocho lives for showdowns like this. Just look what he did to Champ Bailey when they squared off on Monday night football a few years ago. Or what he did to the entire Bears defense just a few weeks ago.
Their defense should be able to shut the Raiders down. They don't particularly rush the ball that well and they are near the bottom of the league in passing. The Bengals have the second best rush defense and is improving in pass defense each week.
And, yet, I've seen the Bengals . . . especially under Marvin Lewis . . . mess up this type of situation.
But there have been so many other firsts this year for the Bengals that we just have to hope they can get their first win in Oakland.
Then it's time to start worrying about another trap game when the in-state rivals, the Browns, come to town. If they can keep it going, the Bengals' schedule is quite favorable. They have the Browns and Detroit at home. Then they go to Minneapolis to face the Vikings (their most difficult game left). Then they have the Chiefs, Chargers, and Jets. If they drop two of those final games, they can finish 12-4 and should secure the second seed in the AFC. Or the wheels could come off and they could stumble to a 9-7 or 10-6 record.
I guess I've been a Bungal fan too long to start looking too far ahead.