|Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton|
He won the starting quarterback job in his rookie season and has been under center every game since, now in his third season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Since joining the team and becoming their leader, the Bengals have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons and are on their way towards a third straight post season appearance. This is not an accident folks. We all know the quarterback is the most important and relied upon position in football. While his numbers aren't off the charts, he usually doesn't make critical mistakes either. Some may call him a "game manager" where it's just don't let the QB screw up what the defense and other play makers are doing.
I think Andy Dalton is better than a game manager and it's an insult to call him that. As the quarterback of the Bengals he is headed toward a third straight playoff berth. I'm sorry but you need a solid quarterback in order to do that. The problem is they haven't got out of the 1st round of the playoffs, losing to the Texans in consecutive seasons. The offense was the problem in both of those games and Dalton was clearly not at his best. This is why many wonder if he's the future of this Bengals organization.
Dalton has 3,144 yards passing with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Those aren't the greatest numbers obviously but he is pretty accurate with a 62% completion percentage. The problem with Dalton is that he went from Captain Consistency at TCU to Captain Controversy in Cincinnati.
Again you have to credit Andy Dalton for being the quarterback of a playoff team and really learning as he goes since he was thrown into the fire in his very first game as a professional football player. And don't anyone dare compare Dalton to Mark Sanchez who had moved even further in the playoffs in his first 2 seasons but that was a completely different team where the Jets asked very little of Sanchez. Dalton is a guy who plays the position well and is asked to do a lot. He'll run a fast paced offense and call plays at the line, audible if necessary and has been granted the ability call his own plays at times. Andy Dalton has been asked to do a lot more than Mark Sanchez ever was.
But to answer the title question, is Dalton holding the team back. Yes he is! When you have a defense such as he has to back you up, you need to back them up by not going 3 & out and/or making stupid throws resulting in interceptions. It kills a defense to see that and not have enough points on the board offensively.
On offense he has a top 5 wide receiver in A.J. Green and other play makers around him like Giovanni Bernard, Marvin Jones and other contributors like Jermaine Gresham and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Bengals need to put more points on the board especially come playoff time where they will likely host a game in the first round.
They've shown signs this year to be able to put up big points along with the help of their defense. The New York Jets have a damn good defense themselves and the Bengals tossed 49 points on the scoreboard in week 8 against them. The Cleveland Browns defense ain't too shabby either and the Bengals scored 41 points in that victory just a couple of weeks ago. Cincy has scored 34 points and 27 a couple of times so the proof is there. They can score and do it against very good defenses.
The Bengals are (8 - 4) sitting atop the AFC North. They have a 2 game lead over the Baltimore Ravens with 4 left to play. Unless Cincy slips up big time, they'll be hosting a 1st round playoff game, perhaps against those Ravens. The Bengals host the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday in a battle of division leaders with identical records. This game means more to the Bengals in the grand scheme of things because the Colts will win the AFC South by default. But the Bengals haven't locked it up yet. The difference between the 3rd and 4th seed is playing the Kansas City Chiefs who are still a very good team despite their recent rut, or a team like the Dolphins, Titans or even the Jets who are all inferior to K.C. in my opinion.
They looked good last week on the road with a 17 - 10 victory over the San Diego Chargers. That's an impressive win, especially shutting down one of the best QB's in the league this year in Phillip Rivers. They're favored to win this game against Indy and they should be. It's an important win for a variety of reasons but most of all it's a confidence builder by beating another 1st place team in your own conference.
Will Andy Dalton hold the Bengals back again this year in the post season? That remains to be seen. I do know this, Andy Dalton is a competitor, big time! So he hears the critics and uses it as fuel for the Bengals fire, matching the color of his hair. Marvin Lewis is a veteran head coach who has ran this team since 2003. I'm sure he's learned quite a few things as the leader of the Bengals after all these years.
It must be eating coach Lewis alive that in all this time his team never won a playoff game. They've been one and done every time even going back to when Carson Palmer got his leg shredded against the Steelers in a first round match up back in 2005. Lewis is (0 - 4) in the playoffs.
So there's pressure on everyone but especially the coach and QB. I look forward to seeing if the Red Rider can make some big plays in the playoffs this year and finally get over the hump.