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Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis should be feeling pretty good right about now. His team was not picked by anybody to be a playoff team. But there they are, 6-2, and tied with the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.Â
By Jason Lewis Sentinel Staff Writer The Bengals are legit
Who would have thought that at the half way point of the season that the Cincinnati Bengals would be fighting for the division lead with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers?
That is exactly what is at steak when the two teams meet this Sunday.
The Bengals have proven that they are for real after they swept the Baltimore Ravens. Earlier this season running back Cedric Benson became the first rusher to gain over 100 yards against the Ravens dominant defense. This past Sunday he did it again against the Ravens, as the Bengals won 17-7. Benson is second in the league in rushing.
The Steelers got off to a slow start, but after the 1-2 start, one of those losses were to the Bengals, the Steelers have now won five games in a row and they looked like a Super Bowl team with wins against the Minnesota Vikings and the Denver Broncos.
The Steelers defense has turned it up a notch, scoring two touchdowns against the Vikings and one against the Broncos. An interception led to another touchdown against the Broncos, and they held the Broncos offense to only three points in their 28-10 victory at Denver.
The inside track to the division title and a home playoff game will be on the line when the Steelers host the Bengals.
Vince Young has finally arrived
Sitting on the sidelines and watching seems to have been just want Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young needed because he is now playing like he belongs in the NFL.
The Titans were 0-6 and not even competitive with Kerry Collins at quarterback. Since making the switch they have won both of their games and have averaged 32 points in their wins.
The Titans scored over 20 points only once in their first six game, and now they have back-to-back 30+ point games with Young. He has completed 72 percent of his passes in the two wins and has thrown a touchdown with no interceptions.
It helps a lot that he has the leagues leading rusher. Running back Chris Johnson has rushed for 959 yards in eight games, and has rushed for 363 yards the past two weeks.
An efficient quarterback combined with a great running back will lead to a lot of points.
Chargers back in the hunt
The Broncos were the media darlings with a 6-0 record, and there was even talk about quarterback Kyle Orton being in the running for the league MVP. Well that talk has died down as the Broncos have fallen flat on their faces over the last two games, Orton has looked like the middle of the road quarterback that everybody thought he was, and now the San Diego Chargers are only one game back in the standings.
It will still be an uphill battle for the Chargers, who play the Broncos at Denver in two weeks. The Chargers host the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Broncos travel to the Washington Redskins, who are just horrible.
The Chargers are pretty much in a must win position against a pretty good Eagles team, because the Broncos will beat the Redskins. The Chargers do not want to travel to Denver while being two games back in the standings. If that happened, and the Chargers lost to the Broncos again, they will find themselves out of the AFC West race.
The Vick experiment
All the hoopla this offseason about quarterback Michael Vick was much ado about nothing. He is third string, and he only sees the field for a play here and a play there, mostly on wildcat plays, which is not sitting well with him.
Vick does not want to be a wildcat quarterback, he, he wants to be a passer. Well, he has every right to think that, but he needs to know that he is not going to get that opportunity in Philadelphia.
Vick signed for $1.6 million this year, and if the Eagles want to keep him they will have to pay him about $3.6 million, which they will not be doing. That's a lot of money for a quarterback who only has 33 total yards, and only six of those are passing yards.
Vick should have some options next year. Since he is already back in the league and has been a model citizen, some team with quarterback will take a chance on him. Vick's mentor Tony Dungy believes that team may be the Buffalo Bills.
If that happens, do not count on Vick throwing passes to Terrell Owens. It is highly unlikely that the Bills keep him around because he has not produced much of anything.
Larry Johnson- malcontent or genius?
Ask a Kansas City Chiefs fan and they will say that running back Larry Johnson is a malcontent. He has had many on and off the field problems and he has a history of throwing coaches under the bus.
Johnson was recently suspended for questioning head coach Todd Haley, and fans were hoping for his release because they did not want him to break Priest Holmes' franchise rushing record, which Johnson was only 75 yards away from.
This release may look bad for Johnson, but in reality, he is now a free agent who can end up on a team that has a chance to make the playoffs. The Chiefs are one of the worst teams in the league, so Johnson has a chance to land himself in a much better situation.
If there is parity, it is in the NFC West
In a league filled with very good teams and very bad teams, the NFC West has figured a way to play right in the middle.
The Sunday before last, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner threw five interceptions in a loss to at home against the Carolina Panthers. This past Sunday, on the road in Chicago, he throws five touchdowns in the win. Yeah, go figure.
When it comes to the 49ers, who knows what is going to happen. After a hot start to the season they have lost four in a row. They are in pretty much every game, but just find a way to lose.
The Seattle Seahawks have become as irrelevant as a team can be. Not good enough to talk about, but not bad enough to get a top five pick in next year's NFL draft. Most bad teams are rewarded for with a high draft pick that can change their organization. The Seahawks better step up their losing efforts.
As for the Rams, well they are the only team in the division that is bucking the parity trend. They flat out stink and are making no efforts to hide it.
New York-New York
The New York Jets and the New York Giants were sitting pretty at 3-0 each, and there was some talk of an all New York Super Bowl. Well now it is questionable if either team makes the playoffs.
The Giants have lost four games in a row and the Jets four out of five. The only thing of note that either of these teams have done recently was blow out the Oakland Raiders. The two New York teams won by a combined score of 82-7.
Weekly JaMarcus Russell report
Russell was intercepted by the bye week.
Well, not really. He actually had a good week because his name was not mentioned much in the news. Raiders head coach Tom Cable took all the headlines.
Napa Valley authorities have decided not to charge Cable of assaulting an assistant coach, who claims that Cable broke his jaw in a fight during training camp.
Cable is not getting away with a free pass, because two women have come out and said that Cable hit them in the past. The National Organization for Women believes that Cable should not be coaching the Raiders while the team investigates allegations that Cable has a history of violent behavior toward women.Â