A request for an I Think I Believe is granted. Naturally, with apologies to Cincinnati Sports Talkmaster Lance McAlister and Sports Illustrated titan Peter King.
I Think I Believe if you had told me 27 days ago that in the first three games of October, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer would have seven touchdown passes and three interceptions for 992 yards in leading the Bengals to 73 points, I would have told you they must be 5-1.
I Think I Believe I would have lost Lance’s I Believe T-shirt right off my back because there is no way the defense lets Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis get 102 yards, or Tampa Bay score 10 points in the final 1:26, or Atlanta to have four touchdown drives of at least 74 yards. No way.
I Think I Believe the most stunning thing about the defense giving up 39 points to the Falcons is the lack of tackling from the linebackers. Middle linebacker Dhani Jones is the brains of the outfit and Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers bring the athletic lumber, but there was nothing going on there Sunday from three guys that are usually pretty solid. I Think I Believe they have to be thinking about putting Maualuga in the middle, but how do you sit the captain and signal-caller of your unit in Jones?
I Think I Believe the most stunning defensive stat of the season is six sacks in six games despite the presence of two very talented kids in Michael Johnson at right end and Geno Atkins at tackle. You’d think one of them would make more than one play like the sack they shared against Baltimore. Maybe that’s it. They’re young. But no scout is going to sit there and tell you they can’t play.
I Think I Believe the Bengals do have a little bit of karma going into Sunday’s Paul Brown Stadium game against Miami on the last day of October. The Bengals have never had a winless month when Palmer has started all the games. They went 0-for September and October in 2008 when he missed games in each month.
After one game, I Think I Believe I am winning my bet with Mo Egger, the versatile voice of ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati. He owes me a coffee at my next Bengals roundtable if Palmer isn’t the slumping bust he has been talking about. Palmer showed in Atlanta he can do all the things he did in 2005 and 2006.
I Think I Believe that rookie wide receiver Jordan Shipley is in the top four draft picks of the Marvin Lewis era, right there with Palmer, Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph.
I Think I Believe that Bengals great Ken Anderson is going to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but it is going to be as a senior candidate in the next five years and not this year in his final year of eligibility on the regular ballot. The Cincinnati selector to the Hall, The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Joe Reedy, has to have his ballot in this Friday as the 44 voters whittle the list from 113 to 25. Then the vote from 25 to the final 15 should be announced the first week of the New Year.
Anderson is on the big list and Reedy says he has an outside shot at making the final 25. It is a struggle, though. You’ve got the 10 guys of last year’s final 15 that didn’t make it, plus four first-year guys that look like they’re going to make it: Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis. So that’s already 14.
Reedy is doing some lobbying and here are my three favorite Anderson arguments I’ve been pushing since 1991:
» He’s the only eligible quarterback with more than three NFL passing titles (four) who isn’t in.
» He’s the only man to win back-to-back passing titles in different decades (1974-75, 1981-82). Peyton Manning may do it, but he hasn’t done it yet. It shows he was at the top in two different eras of offense: Smash-mouth and wide open.
» He was no dinker and dunker. He has the same career yards per attempt (7.3) as 2005 inductee Dan Marino.
Good luck, Joe. You’ve got reason and sanity on your side.
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