Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for. . .the return of Five Good Questions! (We had actually set something like this up with the folks at Revenge of the Birds this past weekend, but real life kept interfering and prevented it from taking place.) However, this week I got to exchange some questions with Josh Kirkendall, the head man over at SBNation's Cincinnati Bengals' blog, Cincy Jungle. I know there's already an "Ask a Norseman" FanPost over there, courtesy of Grime (thank you very much), but I had a chance to exchange a few questions with CJ as well.
So, here are the questions I sent Josh's way. . .and the questions that Josh sent me for answering are now available right here. And away we go!
1) The Bengals have been one of the NFL’s surprise teams this season. Going into the season, did you think that the team had this sort of potential, and what part of the team has been the biggest surprise to you?
This is always a tough question, not because I don’t know the answer; rather there are so many variables that combined into making this team the most improved through 12 games in NFL history. But the biggest surprise has been the Bengals offensive line. Bobbie Williams was the only returning starting lineman that played the same position he played in 2008. Two starters were undrafted free agents a few years back and were molded while on the team’s practice squad. A third undrafted free agent, Dennis Roland, rotates with Anthony Collins and Andre Smith at right tackle as well as plays tight end during jumbo formations where the Bengals sometimes have four offensive tackles on the line
With so many changes, you wouldn’t expect the Bengals to have a rushing offense with three running backs who have combined for seven 100-yard rushing games and in the top-ten for least amount of quarterback sacks allowed. Bar far, the improved offensive line has gone a long way to from taking a last ranked offense in 2008 to one of consistency and stability in 2009.
2) You can’t talk about the Bengals without talking about Chad Ochocinco, who has already declared that when (not if) he scores this week, he’s going to get the Vikings’ mascot involved in the celebration. As a Bengal fan, what do you think of Eight Five’s antics and how does the fan base at large feel about them?
Bengals fans have a give and take relationship with Chad. Most of us just laugh and move on. Nothing he’s done this year has negatively impacted the Bengals and most players in this league realize that Chad is a jokester. As a fan, I stopped taking his antics seriously long ago and found myself enjoying them more than anything; he’s a far better player when he’s having fun and honestly, if he scores touchdowns, I don’t care what he does. Yea, it would be nice if he confirmed to the old school frame of mind. But that’s not the reality. So you take what you can and when he scores touchdowns, you just let his other antics be. Compared to other players whose antics involve the law, Chad’s are trivial at best.
3) Ever since blowing out the Bears and going on their bye week, the Bengal offense has appeared to be a bit out of sorts. What do you chalk this up to, and what do you think they’ll try to do against the Vikings to get the offense back on the right track?
Offensively, they’ve moved the football. Cincinnati’s offense has recorded 300 yards or more of offense in five of their past six games. But obviously, yardage isn’t translating to points. The red zone production is clearly down. Since scoring six touchdowns in seven red zone appearances against the Bears, the Bengals have scored five touchdowns in 16 red zone appearances in the five games since.
I think a lot of that has to do with broken pass protection schemes. I said earlier the unit that’s surprised me the most is the Bengals offensive line. However, they’ve struggled as of late giving Palmer a padded pocket. As a result, Palmer is being hit as, or after, he throws the football, often causing him to rush his throws or to just leave the pocket altogether.
Cincinnati is moving the football just fine, but we haven’t finished drives. And they could be looking to do that this weekend against the Vikings. Against a defense strong against the rush, the Bengals could gameplan an offense that stretches the field. However, we thought that against the Lions, Browns and Raiders and Palmer is still on a streak of not throwing for 300 yards or more in 16 straight games.
4) Who is a member of the Bengals that most Viking fans probably haven’t heard of that will have an impact on the outcome of this Sunday’s game?
Jonathan Fanene. He’s a defensive end that rotates some as a defensive tackle during third-and-long situations. He’s the guy that replaced Antwan Odom earlier in the year as one of the primary pass rushers. He only has five sacks, but one hell of a motor. Last week, rookie Michael Johnson tipped a Matthew Stafford pass at the line of scrimmage that fell into Fanene’s hands, scoring a touchdown. I would also keep your eye on rookie punter Kevin Huber. He can turn the field position game with just one kick from nearly anywhere on the field.
5) What are the keys for the Bengals this Sunday, and how do you see this game playing out?
It would seem to me that both teams have a point to make Sunday. After 12 games, the Bengals have only beaten one team that a winning record at this point (the Packers). Cincinnati needs to see how they stack up against one of the best teams in the NFL. The Vikings, it would seem to me, are in a similar boat, after losing by 13 to the Cardinals.
With both teams sporting a good rushing offense and a great rushing defense, this game is going to end with bloody noses. This is going to be a physical game, and that’s the way that Cincinnati needs it to go to beat the Vikings.
Thanks to Josh for taking the time to answer these questions. We'll have more as the day goes by, so stay tuned!