Don’t ask anyone how good the Cincinnati Bengals are in September anymore. The Bengals take some time to test the temperature of the water before they dive headfirst into the pool. When the season started, top sports news updates indicated it could be a difficult season for the Bengals after quarterback Joe Burrow had to make a road back from an injury.
But things looked even worse on the field. Cincinnati started this season 1-3, including a 27-3 loss to Tennessee in Week 4 that made it appear the Bengals would fall out of the playoff picture. But Cincinnati has roared back with three consecutive victories. The Bengals’ 31-17 win over San Francisco on the road last Sunday improved Cincinnati, and the Bengals are now in a three-way tie for second place in the AFC North Division.
The Bengals started last season 0-2 before rallying to win the division. While Cincinnati’s fanbase would likely appreciate previous theatrics for their physical well-being, the Bengals once again look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Most importantly, Burrow is showing signs of returning to his old form.
Burrow finished 28-of-32 passing against San Francisco and threw three touchdown passes. Cincinnati’s win showed the playoff race for the top seed in the AFC and NFC will be close in each conference. Here’s some other news and notes from the past football weekend.
Should the 49ers be Panicking?
San Francisco appeared to be on a collision course for the Super Bowl after opening the season 5-0. But things have soured quickly. The 49ers’ potent offense has wilted over the past month in three consecutive losses to Cleveland, Minnesota, and Cincinnati. San Francisco has seen second-year quarterback Brock Purdy come back to Earth.
Purdy was intercepted twice against the Bengals and had difficulty handling their pass rush. Defenses are starting to key on star running back Christian McCaffrey, who has scored touchdowns in 17 straight games. If San Francisco will beat some of the top teams in the league when it matters, the 49ers will need Purdy to keep progressing.
San Francisco’s defense having difficulty slowing down Cincinnati is also a concern. The 49ers’ defense has been a strength for them this season.
Denver Finally Gets Good News
Sean Payton’s decision to come back and coach the Broncos looked like a complete disaster. The Broncos were prepared for dysfunction as Black sports news showed Russell Wilson struggled to play quarterback for Denver last season. But the new coach-quarterback tandem got their first resume-building win together.
Denver snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Chiefs with a 24-9 win Sunday. The Broncos, who at 3-5 are starting to crawl into the AFC playoff picture, tortured Mahomes like few others have. Denver applied a consistent pass rush and forced Mahomes to throw two interceptions.
Mahomes also finished with a 59.2 quarterback rating, the second-lowest of his career in a game. Wilson only threw for 114 yards, but three of his 12 completions went for touchdowns.
Steelers Complain, but Jaguars Win
For the first time since the late 1990s, the Steelers and Jaguars felt like rivals again. Jacksonville and Pittsburgh used to play together in the AFC Central division. However, when the NFL realigned in 2002, the Jaguars ended up in the AFC South while Pittsburgh landed in the AFC North. Jacksonville extended its lead in the all-time series to 15-13 by beating the Steelers 20-10.
How the Jaguars won and celebrated drew the ire of Pittsburgh players and fans. On the field, Pittsburgh was miffed by several decisions made by the referees. The one that cost the Steelers three points was an offensive offside called right before halftime. Pittsburgh kicker Chris Bowell had made the 56-yard kick, but after the 5-yard penalty, missed his first kick of the season on a 61-yard attempt.
Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson would complain after the game that the officials had lost them the game, comments that were widely mocked. Jaguars defensive back Andrew Wingard also caused a stir by stealing a Terrible Towel from a Steelers fan in the front row after recording an interception.
The fan would catch Wingard on the helmet with a slap as he went by.
Vikings Celebrate Pyrrhic Victory
Minnesota finally evened its record at 4-4 on the season after beating division rival Green Bay 24-10 on Sunday. However, the Vikings suffered a devastating loss in the fourth quarter. Veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins tore his ACL and will be out for the season.
Cousins had played well against Green Bay, passing for 274 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings forced young quarterback Jaren Hall into the game to make his NFL debut. Hall did OK, considering the circumstances. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 23 yards. However, Hall was also sacked and had the ball ripped away from him by the Packers’ defense.
Levis Changes Titans’ Narrative
Tennessee had been waiting to give Will Levis time to develop into his job as an NFL quarterback. However, current sports news shows that injuries and ineffectiveness forced Tennessee to break in the new quarterback. The Kentucky product made some people around the league wonder what made the Titans wait so long.
Tennessee’s offense was much more consistent with Levis under center. Tennessee scored one touchdown every quarter and grabbed a 28-23 win over Atlanta. The Titans improved their record to 3-4 on the season.
Levis tossed four touchdown passes and finished with a game-high 238 passing yards. This was an important win for this Tennessee team. Before the game, the Titans might be in the market to sell veteran running back Derrick Henry at the trade deadline. But with Levis’s performance, Tennessee may think the playoffs aren’t out of the realm of possibility.
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