It’s Week 2 of the NFL Preseason, which means we are getting closer and closer to the start of the main course, the regular season. I can’t wait, but there is still some preseason action to attend to. Tonight we head to Ford Field in downtown Detroit, where the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions will do battle. The Bengals are trying to forget about their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, but easier said than done. In pure Bengals’ fashion, they completely collapsed and handed the contest to the one armed Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. All the Bengals needed to do was run the clock out, easy right? Well, not for the Bengals, who fumbled the ball away, which was just the beginning to a chaotic finish. The Steelers, thanks to boneheaded personal fouls, marched all the way down the field to kick a field goal and win the game.
If that isn’t the Bengals, I don’t what is. But the Lions have some explaining to do as well, after failing to even reach the playoffs a year ago. The talent was there, but nothing good came out of the season. A year prior, the team was robbed against the Cowboys in the playoffs, and last year almost felt like they were still dwelling on the situation. The Lions had Calvin Johnson then, now they will be without him and it isn’t because of an injury. It’s going to feel a bit weird watching the Lions out there, with no mention of Johnson, one of the greatest to ever play the wide receiver position. But after a record breaking career, Johnson decided to call it quits with his mind and body still intact.
Johnson wasn’t able to win a single playoff game in Detroit, sitting in the same category as Barry Sanders, who couldn’t win anything with the Lions. Two terrific players, but nothing to show for it with regards to team awards. Quarterback Matthew Stafford will be at the controls, with Golden Tate his number 1 option with Johnson retiring. The question is going to be raised, can Golden Tate be a go-to receiver in the NFL? In Seattle, Tate was a guy Russell Wilson looked to first in most cases, so he’s already played in a bit of a marquee role.
Anquan Boldin will flank Tate, who can still play ball at his age. The Lions needed a big target to offset the speed of Tate on the opposite side, and that’s what they get with him. He is also a guy that leads on and off the field. Johnson is gone, and the Lions needed a “locker room” guy. The way I see it Boldin fits the bill quite nicely. Let’s look closer at the Bengals below and try to pull out a winner on Thursday in the NFL.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Detroit Lions NFL Preseason Betting Odds:
vs. Lions -2(-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Bengals vs. Lions Pick:
Any talk of AJ McCarren replacing Andy Dalton as the starter in Cincinnati was a bit too premature. McCarren came on strong as his replacement and almost did what Andy Dalton hasn’t been able to do: win a playoff game. McCarren had the game won, but the last minute of the game defied logic, even for the Bengals. Throughout his time as a starter, McCarren got valuable experience and lead the Bengals into the postseason.
He finished with 864 yards passing, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, proving that he is capable of playing well in the NFL. He also looked good last week, in the Bengals first preseason game of the year, completing 11 of 16 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. McCarren will get a decent amount of work this evening. Rookie receiver Tyler Boyd made an impact right away, hauling in a 40-yard pass from McCarren. Boyd figures to play a big role in Cincinnati this season.
Boyd should take the role of current Detroit Lion, Marvin Jones. While the Lions have lost Calvin Johnson, they didn’t sit around and cry about it, they went and got some talent to soften the blow. Tate, Jones, and Boldin should combine to help Stafford out immensely. I expect the passing game and the Lions’ offense to look fine, after they looked like a lost bunch for the first-half of 2015. Fire Joe Lombardi and insert Jim Bob Cooter and all was well. The Detroit offense was instantly better, and I expect the relationship between Stafford and Cooter to be a productive one in 2016.
The Lions drafted former Michigan Wolverine, Jake Rudock, in the 6th round of the NFL Draft. Tom Brady went to Michigan and was drafted in the 6th round, correlation? No I can safely say that Rudock is not going to be the next Tom Brady, but I think he is capable of eventually being a starter. He improved tenfold as the season moved on under the guidance of Jim Harbaugh. And in his first start as a professional, Rudock passed hit 11 of 14 passes and a touchdown. He had the highest quarterback rating in the game, with a mark of 120.3. Rudock will follow up Dan Orlovsky in the rotation tonight, and will likely be up against Keith Wenning and Joe Licata. One or both will be cut soon, as the Bengals are currently carrying four quarterbacks.
Neither helped their cause, combining for 6 of 15 passing and 2 interceptions. I like Dalton and McCarren, but after their time is up, I don’t feel too confident in Wenning and Licata getting the job done. Rudock should continue to look decent against 3rd and 4th stringers late in the game. The Lions should be able to get out of Thursday night with a 3 or 4 point win.
PICK: LIONS -2 (-110)