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Q&A With the Enemy: Colts v Bengals

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts and Bengals are both teams that have struggled mightily this season. They each have just 2 wins and will be trying desperately to get a win to salvage their seasons. Ahead of the matchup, I talked with Scott of Cincy Jungle to find out a little bit about what the Colts will face. wins, and will be trying desperately to get a win to salvage their seasons. Ahead of the Colts matchup with the Bengals I talked with Scott of Cincy Jungle to find out a little bit about what the Colts will face.

The Bengals were a team I expected to be one of the better groups in the AFC this season after a disappointing 2016. What do you think is holding this team back?

The short answer is the offense. The offensive line has struggled mightily to provide running lanes this year, and Andy Dalton is under pressure a lot more frequently than a quarterback should be, especially one like him, who rarely shows the ability to make a play when pressured. The defense has played pretty well all season, but the offense has been dragging the team down.

Heading into this season fans were expecting at least 9 or 10 wins, with the offensive line preventing us from aspiring to 11 or 12 wins. But we didn’t things would be so bad on offense, that we would be looking at probably 5 or 6 wins.

Joe Mixon was a guy who was viewed as possibly the most complete back coming out of the draft last year. Right now he’s averaging 3.2 yards per carry and has just 333 yards from scrimmage and 1 touchdown. Is that on him or is there something else going on?

There is something else going on, and it is those five guys in front of him providing the blocking. Mixon and our other running backs are too frequently getting met in the backfield or stopped for no gain because the blocking up front is failing them. He has done some impressive work with the ball in his hands just to get that average up to 3.2 yards per carry. Mixon has shown that he can be a special runner with the ball in his hands, but Marvin Lewis has a bad tendency to favor veterans over better, younger players – especially if those younger players are rookies. So that has limited Mixon’s touches.

Vontaze Burfict had yet another incident come up in the game against Pittsburgh, Sunday. Are Bengals fans expecting to see him suspended given his history? If that happens, how big of an impact is that on the defense?

Having watched the video a few times, I’m not sure how the league will respond. The Steelers player was seemingly baiting him all game and deliberately fell on him in that play, which prompted Burfict to respond by trying to push him off with his feet. In context, I think most other players escape with nothing more than a nominal fine for this. But Burfict carries a reputation and doesn’t get the same leeway that other players do. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the league came down on him with a bigger fine or even a suspension.

On one hand losing Burfict has a huge impact on the defense. When he is healthy and playing his game he’s one of the top linebackers in the league. His ability to read & react to a running play and his tendency to instinctively put himself in the right place at the right time on passing plays is probably the most impressive I’ve seen of any Bengals linebacker over the past couple decades. So losing him is a big loss, especially now that the Bengals lost MLB Kevin Minter with an arm injury. But the team has lost Burfict so frequently that on the other hand, you just kind of get used to him being absent from the field. The Bengals have a similar thing with Tyler Eifert. He’s a great tight end, but when a player misses more games than he plays, it’s difficult to really say you’re experiencing the negative impact of losing something that you typically don’t have.

With Marvin Lewis in a “lame-duck” season, is there any way you expect him back next season? Do fans want him back?

There is an old saying that one in the hand is worth two in the bush. In that regard, the Bengals seem firmly entrenched in keeping the one in the hand. And that would be who Lewis is as a coach. After fourteen plus seasons, he has established himself as a coach who will provide a decent team that generally wins just over half of their games, but loses when it matters most, such as against better opponents, primetime games, and most importantly, in the playoffs. His in-game coaching decisions often leave fans frustrated, and he has publicly stated that he doesn’t believe in making halftime adjustments since he thinks those are just something made up by the media.

To understand the fans’ view on Lewis, they need to understand what happened in the 1990’s. From 1991 to 2002 the Bengals went 55-137 with zero winning seasons. That decade was so horribly inept that just about any step forward would be embraced warmly. And Lewis brought that step forward. Overall, Lewis has a winning record, so fans have been willing to look past the occasional bad season and lack of playoff success because things have been much better with him than they were before him. But the fans have their limit, and I think by and large Bengals fans are at the point where they won’t willing to tolerate mediocrity any longer. Many were frustrated when he was brought back for this season, and I think just about all of them will be frustrated if he is brought back next season.

Who is the player on this Bengals team we don’t know but who will impress in this game?

I’ll go with a pair of linebackers. Carl Lawson has been very impressive as a rookie pass rusher this season, but the Bengals usually don’t put him on the field except for obvious passing downs, because they prefer not to play their rookies too frequently unless they have no other option. Another unheralded player who might impress is linebacker Nick Vigil. He’s quietly having a good season and is leading the team in tackles. With starter Kevin Minter now injured, and fellow starter Burfict possibly facing a suspension, Vigil should get plenty of opportunities to make tackles on Sunday.

What player on the Colts roster would you most like to have added to the Bengals if you could?

Well, the easy answer would be Andrew Luck. At some point, I’d like to see A.J. Green get a deep ball in stride and not be continually underthrown after burning a cornerback. Assuming Luck is off the table, I’d opt for one of the offensive linemen like Anthony Castonzo or Ryan Kelly. They would both be a huge step up from what we have been using at left tackle and center.