What a weird week. And if you're unclear on what the headline is referring to, I'm envious of you because you get to watch No Country for Old Men for the first time.
In case you're a football fan who's been living under a rock for the past several days, you know that the AFC playoff scenarios were modified in the wake of Damar Hamlin's tragic accident. Something had to be done. I get it. However, you can recognize that, acknowledge Hamlin's health is more important than anything football-related from a humanist perspective, and still accept the fact that the Bengals got hosed.
One of the stipulations to the postseason hypotheticals was a coin toss to decide home field in the event the Ravens somehow came into Cincinnati and won in Week 18 to set up a Wild Card matchup. Thankfully Baltimore did not win, yet the situation still forced the Bengals to play their starters when the AFC North division was already clinched.
I most definitely adored Joe Mixon's touchdown celebration referring to the coin flip debacle of a rule:
…But I also had this sinking feeling, like there was another shoe that would eventually drop. And did it ever. While wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins got banged up and had to leave the field briefly before returning, the biggest news is the injury to Cincinnati right guard Alex Cappa.
Talk about a Pyrrhic victory. The Bengals are suddenly in danger of missing the right side of their starting offensive line heading into the playoffs.
Not that Joe Burrow hasn't overcome bad pass protection before to catalyze a Super Bowl run. It's just that…damn. This was the glaring flaw on the roster, it was enthusiastically addressed, and now Cincinnati may not have Cappa and for sure won't have La'el Collins going forward.
Baltimore harassed Cincinnati's offense into a less-than-stellar performance. Joe Brrr damn near got his head taken off on an uncalled facemask penalty that resulted in a fumble and a Ravens field goal. Look at this shit:
Imagine if this happened to Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen. Because I can't. How do you miss that blatant of a penalty. Joe has his neck rotating like Regan in The Exorcist. And I don't mean to poke fun or make light of it. That's a fucking disgrace of officiating.
It was actually Ravens third-string QB Anthony Brown who gifted three turnovers to the hosts, which led to 21 Bengals points.
Divisional games are weird as it is because of the familiarity factor. Baltimore's inactive list basically signaled they were conceding this one with the hope that Lamar Jackson will return for Wild Card Weekend. On Cincinnati's side of that, it was a delicate balance of not showing too much schematically before next week's much more meaningful duel.
Between the Hamlin situation that the Bengals were directly involved in and the weird-ass circumstances that surrounded the playoff picture, I wasn't surprised to see a sluggish effort from Cincy. But it's OK. We now know the Bengals get their home game, and let's just take it one week at a time. No excuses. Time to go defend that AFC crown. WHO DEY.
OH WAIT. Yeah, the regular season is over. However much Sunday's contest felt like one of those, "OK let's get a win and get the fuck outta here", this is still a significant moment. My prediction of a 13-4 record and No. 1 AFC seed was a touch off, but hey, we'll take this after that 0-2 start when everyone left us for dead, right?
Thank you for anyone who's followed and read along with me this year. Tag me with a follow below as we venture into the games that really matter.