Judgements: With Big Ben down, are Bengals playing solitaire?

With Pittsburgh's loss of Ben Roethlisberger and another Baltimore loss, period, the Cincinnati Bengals may be playing solitaire in the AFC North. That, plus this weekend's winners and losers, in Judgements III.


(Marvin Lewis photos courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals)

Pittsburgh better hope Ben Roethlisberger isn’t lost for an extended period … because it’s toast if he is. Yeah, I know about the "next-man-up" philosophy, only here the next man up is Michael Vick. So what? So the guy makes turnovers like McDonald’s makes burgers. Over his previous four seasons, Vick has 42 giveaways (29 interceptions, 13 fumbles) in 32 starts. Oh, yeah, he’s also 13-19.

2. Cincinnati might be playing game of solitaire in the AFC North. Baltimore has lost everything, including Terrell Suggs. The Steelers are without Big Ben. And Cleveland is Cleveland. So what’s to slow down the Bengals? January. Nobody will trust these guys until they win a playoff game.

3. Best team in the NFC East? Easy. It’s Atlanta. The Falcons are 3-0 vs. the division and just put up the last 25 points against defending champion Dallas.

4. So Brandon Weeden completed all but four of 26 passes in his first start of the year. Terrific. He also threw a brutal interception that cost the Cowboys seven points … and momentum in a first half they dominated. For Weeden to succeed, he had to avoid the costly mistake. He failed, and that, folks, is why Matt Cassel is there.

5. I don’t worry about the Colts winning the AFC South because the division stinks. But I do worry about what happens next because Andrew Luck isn’t Andrew Luck, with eight turnovers in three games. Part of that is Luck trying to make too much happen; most of it, however, can be traced to an offensive line that can't protect the franchise (Luck).

6. The seat is getting warm for Miami coach Joe Philbin. That happens when you’re 24-27 in four seasons.

7. Never bet against Rex Ryan in Miami. He’s won his last four times there and five of the last six.

8. It’s official: Green Bay and Arizona are the teams to beat in the NFC.

9. Let’s hear it for Chris Johnson. He scored twice as many times Sunday (2) as he did all of last year (1) and produced 150 yards rushing and receiving. Now the question: What happens when Andre Ellington returns?

10. The Mets and Cubs are in the playoffs, the Raiders are 2-1 and the Ravens are 0-3 for the first time ever. I can't explain it, either, so let's just blame it on the lunar eclipse.

11. That should take the heat off Chip Kelly … for a week.

12. One reason to believe Seattle won’t make it to a third straight Super Bowl: Pass protection. Russell Wilson doesn’t have it. He’s been sacked 12 times this year, or twice as many as his first three games of 2014.

13. Memo to Rob Ryan: Next time, you might want to cover that Greg Olsen guy.

14. Bad news, Baltimore: No 0-3 team made it to a Super Bowl, and only three reached the playoffs – with the 1998 Buffalo Bills the last.

15. Admit it: The Eagles looked better with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles running the ball than they do with DeMarco Murray.

16. Atlanta or Carolina? We won’t find out until Dec. 13, the first time they meet this year.

17. Someone remind Jacksonville why the New England Patriots are supposed to be a diminished team. The Pats scored on their first nine possessions Sunday and were stopped only by themselves. They took a knee twice on the last series, their tenth.

18. Good to see the head coach is in charge again in Denver. Welcome back, Peyton.

19. I have feeling we won't know what to make of Carolina until Oct. 18 ... or when the Panthers go to Seattle.

20. Two words to describe what’s ahead for New Orleans: Fork, please.

21. I never, ever, ever want to hear the words “complete the process” again. Trust your eyes. Period.

22. Looks like it's time for another bailout of Detroit.

23. Joseph Randle runs for 91 yards and three scores in the first half,. He touches the ball five times in the second. Worse, the Cowboys run only five times ... total ... in the second half. Someone in Dallas care to explain?

24. Sounds like referee Ed Hochuli may have some 'splaining to do.

25. I don't care if Vick was Antonio Brown's idol as a kid. Brown loses big when Vick takes over, and Le'Veon Bell becomes the focus of the offense.


Julio Jones photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

(Julio Jones photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons)

Class of 2011 wide receivers. A.J. Green was the fourth choice; Julio Jones was the sixth. The two combined Sunday for 22 catches, 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Oakland QB Derek Carr. It’s time to believe, people. The last two weeks he beat Baltimore and Cleveland in Cleveland, hitting 50 of 78 for 665 yards, five touchdowns, one interception and two passer ratings of 100-plus. Want more? Try this: He just produced the first road win for Oakland in its last 12 games there.

Buffalo LB Preston Brown. He intercepted Ryan Tannehill twice, returning one for a 43-yard touchdown in a 41-14 beatdown of Miami. For the record, the Bills have held Tannehill to a passer rating of 75.0 or less in four of their last five meetings.

Baltimore WR Steve Smith. Don’t blame him for what’s going on in Baltimore. All he’s done the past two weeks is make 23 catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He should reconsider that decision to retire after this season.

Atlanta RB Davonta Freeman. He produces 193 yards from scrimmage, including 141 rushing, and scores three times to push Atlanta across the finish line.


N.Y. Jets WR Brandon Marshall. Forget the touchdown catch or 10 receptions. He cost the Jets a touchdown with a stupid lateral that was recovered by Philadelphia ("probably the worst play in NFL history," he said), then let a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass sail through his hands for a game-clinching interception.

Tampa PK Kyle Brindza. I don’t care that he nailed a 58-yard kick. When you miss three field goals – including two that could’ve put the Bucs ahead – it’s time to check the Help:Wanted ads.

Miami QB Ryan Tannehill. Basically he is what he is: An adequate quarterback who’s not good enough to get you … or the Dolphins … over the hump, especially with that offensive line. There’s only one quarterback in the AFC East who scares opponents, and he’s going to the Hall of Fame.

San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick. And to think, it was only two years ago that ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski – a guy who seldom makes mistakes – predicted Kaepernick "could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever." Get me rewrite.

Chicago special teams. For the second consecutive week the Bears allow a kickoff return for a touchdown. But this time, they throw in a 64-yard punt return by Richard Sherman, too, on a gimmick hatched by St. Louis last year.


Cincinnati WR A.J. Green. Now you know why the Bengals paid him that $60 million extension. His 227 yards receiving were the third most allowed by Baltimore ever and was so dominant that cornerback Jimmy Smith --- who was left in single coverage with Green in the fourth quarter – didn’t want to talk about him afterward.



(John Harbaugh photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

“One of these days we’ll figure out how to cover A.J. Green. It would be nice if we did that before he retires.” – Baltimore coach John Harbaugh


1 – Miami sacks this season

3 – Straight Julio Jones games with 135 or more yards receiving

9 – Straight games with a Philip Rivers interception, the longest active streak in the NFL

16-2 --Carson Palmer's record over his last 18 starts

35 – New England first downs, tying a franchise record

58 – Ryan Fitzpatrick pass attempts

90-25 -- Opponents vs. San Francisco last two weeks

100 – Lance Dunbar yards receiving on 10 catches

401 – Tom Brady career touchdown passes