Bengals eye playoffs after surprise start


By Del Duduit - PDT Sportswriter



Breaking news.

This could be referred to as a major “October Surprise.”

Sit down. Take a breath.

Ready?

The latest odds from DraftKings, an online sports book, in this week’s NFL futures has the Cincinnati Bengals with a 66.7-percent chance of making the playoffs.

And, according to DraftKings, the Bengals have a 60-percent chance of winning more than nine games.

Right now, Cincinnati is 5-2 and tied with Baltimore for the AFC North Division lead — and will take on the New York Jets (1-5) Sunday in the Big Apple.

Last week, the Bengals dominated the Ravens – the former No. 1 seed – and thumped them 41-17.

Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow passed for a career-high 416 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

But he has done more than put up major numbers.

For the season, he sits at 1,956 yards passing with 17 TDs and a passer rating of 68.9.

He has instilled a new attitude in the Queen City, and in the locker room.

And he is doing this after having his knee blown out last year.

Eleven months ago, his NFL future was in doubt.

Each week, he gets better under center — and his confidence is evident.

Burrow told Peter King of NBC Sports last week that he was not worried about the crowd factor in Baltimore.

“But we were ready for it. Playing in the SEC definitely, definitely helped. Gets way louder in the SEC than in any of these NFL stadiums,” he said.

Boom!

How’s that for swagger.

Up in the media box, there is legitimate chatter that has Burrow in the MVP discussion.

And Burrow has an offensive line that protects him and gives him time to find his receivers and playmakers.

Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase hauled in eight catches for 201 yards with a TD last week.

He is the ultimate gamer.

During the preseason had some issues with dropped passes, and had brass and fans a little worried.

But when he straps on the helmet, it’s game on for Burrow’s former LSU teammate.

In seven games, he’s caught 35 passes for 754 yards with six

touchdowns and a 21.5 average. He is the clear and front-running candidate for NFL Rookie of the Year.

And it keeps getting better.

Running back Joe Mixon leads an offensive team ranked third in the NFL in rushing.

Mixon has rumbled for 539 yards on 123 carries with four touchdowns.

While the offense is putting up above average numbers, the defense is making waves too.

Last week, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson was sacked five times – the most times he has hit the turf behind the line of scrimmage in a game during his pro career.

Think about this.

The Bengals have knocked off division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh 65-27 this season.

When is the last time that has happened?

During the offseason, Cincinnati made strides to improve the defense.

They brought in Trey Hendrickson, who is tied for fourth place in the NFL with 6.5 sacks.

The Bengals best cornerback is Chidobe Awuzie — I love saying that name.

He gets the opposing team’s best receiver and has become a shutdown corner.

The team has the fifth-best scoring defense and the eighth-best rushing defense in the NFL.

Second-year linebacker Logan Wilson is an offensive disruption machine.

He hits hard and picks off passes.

He has four interceptions on the year, which puts him in second place in the NFL.

And he’s a linebacker!

The Bengals have a long way to go in the season.

But with the combination of Burrow’s confidence and the production on both sides of the ball, everyone’s eyebrows are raised.

Could this be the year of The Jungle?

Are they for real?

Let’s not get ahead of Sunday’s game against the Jets, but just know that I am glancing at the prices of airline tickets right now to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. — the home for Super Bowl LVI.

I am not getting ahead of myself … just looking.

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By Del Duduit

PDT Sportswriter

Del Duduit covers the Bengals for The Portsmouth Daily Times

Del Duduit covers the Bengals for The Portsmouth Daily Times