Report: Larry Johnson to sign with Bengals

According to ESPN.com, Larry Johnson is close to signing a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. If the team does sign the troubled free agent, it is expected to be for the prorated league minimum.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday that if Johnson were signed that he would be inactive on game days. Cedric Benson (who suffered a hip injury yesterday in a win over the Steelers) would remain the starter and Bernard Scott would keep his No. 2 role. LJ would essentially be added as an insurance policy and would be the fourth tailback on Cincinnati’s depth chart.

This might not be a bad move for the Bengals just in case Benson’s hip injury is worse than originally thought. If Benson is healthy, then Johnson can rot on the sidelines for the rest of the year. If he isn’t, then Johnson can rot on the sidelines for the rest of the year unless Scott showed that he couldn’t handle the full-time rushing duties.

My question is whether or not LJ would ruin the Bengals’ chemistry. That might sound like a ludicrous statement given how dysfunctional Cincinnati has been over the years, but this appears to be a different Bengals team – one that plays together and could be affected by the addition of a cancer like Johnson.


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No Fun League strikes again: Ocho fined for $1 bribe

Bengals’ receiver Chad Ochocinco has been fined $20,000 by the NFL for flashing a dollar bill at an official during a replay challenge in Cincinnati’s 17-7 win over the Ravens last Sunday.

Per ESPN.com:

In the third quarter of the Bengals’ eventual victory, Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer completed a 15-yard pass to Ochocinco. Baltimore challenged the call, contending that he was out of bounds, and the Ravens won the challenge.

While the play was under review, Ochocinco held a $1 bill at his side. The official appeared aware of his antic and waved him off.
“I was just being me,” Ochocinco told the NFL Network after the game. “I wasn’t going to do it for real.”

According to a league spokesman, Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, fined Ochocinco for violating a rule that “prohibits use of abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures toward game officials. He was also in violation of Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (f) of the Playing Rules which prohibits possession or use of extraneous objects that are not part of the uniform during the game on the field or sideline.”

The NFL also cited Ochocinco using the word “bribe” in his postgame comments to reporters.

“You don’t mess around with the integrity of the game,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Friday. “It’s not a matter for jokes. Chad crossed a line there, and I told him he has to understand that. I think he does now.”

I don’t know; I’m not surprised that the NFL fined him because they don’t want him or anyone else to make a habit of pulling pranks while on the field, but to say that Chad crossed the line is a bit much. He was just trying to have some fun and never means any harm by his pranks.

Again though, the NFL had to fine him or else players would be trying to outdo each other (or themselves in the case of Ochocinco) every week and while I don’t mind the occasional stunt, I wouldn’t want pranks to take away from the actual game itself.


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2009 NFL Week 7 Picks & Predictions

Instead of limiting myself to only four games like I have the previous weeks, I’ve decided to channel my inner Peter King and make predictions (with smaller write ups) on every contest on the NFL schedule this week.

49ers at Texans, 1:00PM ET
It had to have been a long two weeks for San Francisco’s players after the Falcons drubbed the Niners 45-10 in Week 5. Mike Singletary will have his team more focused and I think we’ll see a great defensive effort from San Fran this Sunday to slow down a potent Houston offensive attack.
Odds: Texans –3.
Prediction: 49ers 20, Texans 17.

Packers at Browns, 1:00PM ET
This will be a closer game than most think. The Packers could be looking ahead to a home date with the Vikings next Sunday, although in the end Cleveland’s offense is putrid and while Green Bay has been inconsistent defensively this year, I think they’ll do enough to get the Pack a victory.
Odds: Packers –9.
Prediction: Packers 24, Browns 16.

Chargers at Chiefs, 1:00PM ET
Ron Rivera has no clue on how to get San Diego’s defense back on track, but the young, inexperienced Kansas City secondary could have issues slowing down Philip Rivers and the Bolts’ passing game. Still, I think Matt Cassel and company pull off a surprise upset at home against a San Diego team coming off a short week.
Odds: Chargers –5
Prediction: Chiefs 20, Chargers 18.

Colts at Rams, 1:00PM ET
The Rams have given a nice effort the past two weeks, but this is a horrible matchup for them – even at home. Peyton Manning and company is well rested and the Indy defense will harass Marc Bulger all game.
Odds: Colts –14
Prediction: Colts 34, Rams 14.

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Jekyll and Hyde Texans strike again

If the Houston Texans could ever find some consistency from week-to-week, there’s no doubt they would be a playoff team. But one week they’re losing to the Jaguars at home and the next they’re beating a red-hot Bengals team in Cincinnati.

Matt Schaub dissected the Bengals for 392 yards and four touchdowns in Houston’s 28-17 victory on Sunday. It might have been the best performance of his career, as he used multiple receivers and was incredibly patient while waiting for receivers to come out of their breaks. He was also extremely accurate, hooking up with Andre Johnson eight times for 135 yards, including once for 59 yards.

The Texans have a good enough offense to hang with any opponent in the league. But it will be the play of their defense that decides whether or not they’ll make the playoffs. Today their defense was excellent, limiting the Bengals to only 46 yards on the ground and forcing three turnovers. But next week, who knows?

One factor that could help Houston down the stretch defensively is the emerging play of rookie Brian Cushing. He has shown the ability to shed blockers, hang with backs and receivers in coverage and has displayed a knack for making the big play. He was outstanding on Sunday, intercepting Carson Palmer and forcing two fumbles. Houston has found a special player in this year’s first round pick.

Cincinnati suffered today when defensive end Antwaan Odom left the game with an injury. The Bengals were also without Domata Peko, who has been their best run-stuffer. Without those two defenders, Schaub, Steve Slaton and Chris Brown were able to move the chains with consistency and the Bengals were in catch up mode the entire game outside of when they added a late field goal to take a 17-14 lead into halftime.

This loss might wind up being good for the Bengals. They may have started to read their own press clippings after beating the Ravens in Baltimore last week and Marvin Lewis can use this loss to remind his team that there are 16 games in a NFL season.

Bengals prove their legitimacy with win over Ravens

Brady

With their 17-14 come-from-behind victory over the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday, questioning whether or not the Bengals are for real is over.

They’re for real, they’re not pretenders, they’re going to challenge for a playoff spot in the AFC.

How the Bengals arrived at 4-1 is no fluke. In fact, the only fluke so far this season was their opening week loss to the Broncos because otherwise this team would be undefeated. They’ve already defeated the Packers in Green Bay, the defending champion Steelers at home and the Ravens in Baltimore. It’s not like they’ve racked up wins against below average teams at home – they’ve won in hostile environments against postseason contenders.

Granted, the Ravens shot themselves in the foot on Sunday with two huge penalties. Chris Carr’s illegal contact penalty was bad, but the unnecessary roughness call against Ray Lewis was a killer as it wiped out a third-and-16 incompletion by Carson Palmer.

But give the Bengals credit – they held Baltimore’s potent offense to 257 total yards, including only 82 on the ground. Regular readers know I’ve described Cincinnati’s defense as “underrated” for the past couple weeks but I may have been wrong. They’ve not just underrated, but they’re also a damn good unit. They picked off Joe Flacco twice today and held him to under 200 passing yards (186 to be exact).

It’s still early, but again, it’s time to stop wondering if this Bengals team can hang with the elite competition in the AFC. Palmer is healthy, the defense has been solid, Cedric Benson (120 yards, 1 TD) has been great and the offensive line has played better than expected. They’re going to challenge for a playoff spot at this rate.

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