Urban Meyer as the next coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
No, I'm not breaking news here, but it's a theory I have. Bear with me a minute. The Bengals were probably the biggest losers of Week 11. I actually didn't like them as 2.5-point home favorites against Buffalo because the Bills were coming off their bye and Cincinnati was on a short week after losing at the Giants last Monday night. It also didn't look like Bengals star receiver A.J. Green was all that healthy against New York.
Buffalo won the game 16-12 to drop the Bengals to 3-6-1. They have made the playoffs a franchise-record five straight years but lost in the wild-card round in each of them. Thus, many thought Coach Marvin Lewis had to get a postseason win to keep his job for 2017. But there's almost no route to the playoffs now because Cincinnati also lost Green to a reported torn hamstring in the loss and running back Gio Bernard to a torn ACL. The latter is done for the year, and almost surely Green is.
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The Bengals already were pretty weak at receiver after losing Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu this offseason in free agency. Now Andy Dalton has no receiver to stretch a defense. Green had been targeted 100 times and had 66 catches for 964 yards and four touchdowns. The Bengals are 3-0-1 this year when he has 100 yards in a game. In losses, he had combined for 27 catches, 321 yards and one touchdown. In the second half without Green vs. the Buffalo, the offense produced a single first down in its first five drives and didn't score at all. Bernard is the No. 2 back behind Jeremy Hill but had rushed for 337 yards and two scores while catching 39 passes for 336 yards and a TD. I'll also be surprised if kicker Mike Nugent is still on the roster by this Sunday. He missed two extra points on Sunday, part of an NFL-record 12 missed around the league.
So how might Meyer fit into all this? If the Bengals dump Lewis, which I think they will, don't you have to call Meyer? He wouldn't even have to move from Columbus as it's only about 100 miles from Cincinnati. While Meyer had some health and stress-related problems while at Florida, it's actually easier to coach in the NFL in that you don't have to be out recruiting all the time. I'm not saying Meyer would love Ohio State, but I'm at least finding out if I'm Bengals ownership as he's an Ohio native. Cincinnati is -4 this Sunday at Baltimore.
Here are some Week 12 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday night's game (Steelers-Colts), Sunday's marquee matchup (Chiefs-Broncos) or the Monday night game (Packers-Eagles). There are no teams on the bye as it's a showcase week with the Thanksgiving holiday.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills (-7, 45.5): Buffalo top running back LeSean McCoy dislocated his thumb against Cincinnati but already had surgery for it and expects to play Sunday. Tough dude. The news isn't good on current No. 1 receiver Robert Woods, who left with a knee sprain and is likely to miss a little while. Usual No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins is eligible to be activated from injured reserve on Friday and could play in Sunday's game. But he hasn't practiced yet, so that's not real likely. Jags quarterback Blake Bortles hurt his shoulder in Sunday's loss in Detroit but is expected to play. The pick: Bills and "under."
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons (-4, 50.5): Will Cardinals coach and offensive play-caller Bruce Arians be on the sideline? He was hospitalized on Monday with chest pains. If you've seen Arians, he's not exactly the fit dude. He was also rushed to a hospital before a preseason game against the Chargers for something different. All tests have come back good, but it's still too early to tell if Arians will be there. The Cards are hoping to get safety Tyrann Mathieu back this week and they will need him against that Atlanta offense. Mathieu has been out since Oct. 30 with a shoulder injury. The Falcons are off their bye week. Their lead in the NFC South is down to a game over Tampa Bay. The pick: Falcons and "over."
New England Patriots at New York Jets (+9, 47): The Jets, coming out of their bye week, are the biggest opening dogs on the board. They have named Ryan Fitzpatrick as this week's starting quarterback over Bryce Petty, who started Week 10 against the Rams and didn't do much with Fitz dealing with a minor knee injury. It really makes no sense to start Fitz here because he's not going to be back next year and the Jets are already dead in the water at 3-7. But coach Todd Bowles is concerned that going with the Petty would cause the rest of the team to quit on what remains of the season. It remains to be seen if New England will have Rob Gronkowski after he missed Sunday's win in San Francisco with a chest/lung injury. The Jets played the Pats very well last year in losing both games. I think this is too many points to give. The pick: Jets and under.
New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (+7, 44.5): Ah the Browns. They actually allowed a season-low 24 points on Sunday at home to Pittsburgh but still lost by 15. The Steelers scored eight points with zeroes showing on the clock before halftime after they were awarded two extra plays because of defensive penalties against the Browns. If that's not typical Browns, I don't know what is. The Browns have now lost 14 in a row overall and 29 of their past 32 games. It is also the first time since the team joined the NFL in 1950 that its overall record has fallen below .500 (461-462-10). Cleveland lost rookie starting QB Cody Kessler to his second concussion of the season and now might simply shut him down. Josh McCown already has been named the starter against New York. The Giants have won five straight but can't make up any ground on Dallas in the NFC East. This could be a bit of a trap game with matchups in Pittsburgh and vs. the Cowboys the following two weeks. The pick: Giants at this number but if I can get double-digits by Sunday I'd take the points.
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