Kansas City has pulled into a tie for first place in the AFC West. Well, when youâ€™re in a division as crummy as theirs thatâ€™s the least you can do.
My mistake – I said earlier that when you play in a division as lousy as the AFC West (as the Chiefs do) the least you can do is win enough games to be in first place. But actually the least you can do is have a big fat zero in the win column like the Rams in the NFC West who are once again letting the Seattle Sleepwalks off the hook as Hasselbeck and company wander cluelessly into first place in the worst division in pro football. Oh sorry, we were talking about the KC game werenâ€™t we? I do so love to bash Seattle.
Well, neither the Chiefs nor the Bengals team has a whole lot to be proud of following this weeks game. Yes itâ€™s true that Larry Johnson had a good first half running for 100+ yards, and itâ€™s also true that his effective running loosened up the passing game allowing Huard to connect with Tony Gonzales on a touchdown pass. But KC played a dismal second half. Out of seven possessions, five of them ended in a punt (usually after the drive resulted in negative yardage) and another ended in a fumble. Their only saving grace was a score after a failed Cincinnati drive in which the Bengals got pinned back near the 15 by a penalty on the kickoff and couldnâ€™t get the ball out of their own territory.
As for the Bengals, I really canâ€™t rag on their defense too much. They stepped up to the plate and stiffened in the second half when it really counted, and they did it while missing key personnel like cornerback Jonathan Joseph who was screwed to the wall by commissioner Goodell with a one game suspension for a drug charge that would probably have gotten Bill Belichick a $20 fine and 3 hours of community service. Unfortunately Carson Palmer and the offense did not capitalize. TJ Houshmandzadeh had a great day catching 8 passes for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the points were too few and far between. Cincinnati had a poor record of conversion on third downs (1 for 11), and Palmer was intercepted twice and lost a fumble.
Cincinnatiâ€™s remaining schedule has some soft spots – they play a couple of teams that are currently winless and a couple more against division laggers, but they also have 4 inter-divisional games including 2 against the Steelers who stand alone atop the AFC North. Their climb out of a 1-4 start (which incidentally has happened 3 times in the last 5 years) figures to be a lot tougher this time around. The difference between the Bengals and some other teams in the league who are 1-4 or 1-5 is that Cincinnati absolutely has the tools to score points and win ball games. Whether they choose to pick them up and use them remains to be seen.
As for Kansas City, their prospects for success donâ€™t seem as likely. Without the superstar performance of injured RB Priest Holmes the Chiefs just havenâ€™t looked like a running football team. Tony Gonzales and Dwayne Bowe are adequate receivers and Damon Huard is an adequate quarterback. But 1 out of 4 teams in their conference is either undefeated of has only one loss. With that kind of competition an adequate team may just not be adequate enough.