Sports Today: Cincinnati Bengals last chance to change narratives against Steelers on MNF

  • Marcus Hartman
9:42 a.m. Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 Journal-News Sports
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 22: Cameron Heyward #97 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a defensive stop in the first half during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on October 22, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

After a long weekend of championship football, there is one game yet to go: The Cincinnati Bengals host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. 

We’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s put a bow on the College Football Playoff stuff. 

As so often happens these days, the committee chairman took a reasonable decision and basically ruined it by explaining how it came about. 

There’s really no discernible difference between Ohio State and Alabama on the field. They’re both good-not-great teams overall. Pretty balanced. Very talented.  

The Buckeyes had more good wins, but they also had more losses (and one was really bad). 

After growing up watching fluke losses knock out numerous national championship contenders who were probably more talented than the team that actually ended up on top of the rankings at the end of the year, I’ve always preferred to look at who a team beat first. That is a larger sample size, and it proves more to me because going undefeated is hard and nobody just dominates their schedule for 12 or 13 weeks. 

That’s why I thought Ohio State had a good chance to get in, but I knew that second loss could be a disqualifier. 

I didn’t think I’d hear the committee chairman say Alabama is just better than Ohio State, though. That is a conclusion that makes no sense to me. 

If they were able to reach it, I have to wonder what we’re really doing here. 

That and the never-ending numbers problem presented by trying to fit five conference winners into four slots makes me think change is now more inevitable than ever. 

When we eventually move to eight teams, it won’t be the always-feared bracket creep. It will be water finding level because four has always been problematic. 

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports laid out an interesting suggestion for overhauling the current system to get to eight teams without even adding games. 

The first weekend of December is no longer reserved for conference championship games. They are the first round of an eight-team playoff, where the higher-seeded team gets to host. The champions of the five major conferences would be granted automatic bids. If you win your league, you are in.

How each conference determines that is up to them. The Big 12 already plays a round robin so the conference title game is useless. The other leagues could base it on league record with various tie breakers. This would wisely lead to the end of the division system which makes neither competitive, nor intellectual, sense. A more balanced scheduling system would improve the entire season. So would knowing that playing (and losing) tough non-conference games won’t kill you (as it did to USC) because you can still win your league.

It’s not perfect, but nothing is... 

Regarding the Cincinnati Bengals playing host to the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight, I want to see this as a big game but I just can’t do it. 

I am not a believer at this point. 

The only reason to think the Bengals can win is sometimes surprising stuff happens in football. 

(Well, and some injuries.) 

I guess that’s what happens after years of dropping the ball in these types of situations — not to mention the Steelers are just better. 

Also they totally punked the Bengals earlier this season, so I’m not really in a hurry to pretend I don’t think that will happen again. 

Maybe they’ll surprise me. 

There are things to like about this Cincinnati team, and most of them are positive potential long-term answers, too. 

Although losing tonight would pretty much cripple the Bengals playoff hopes, I don’t think this will qualify as a lost season overall if they come out of it with some new future stars like Joe Mixon and Carl Lawson to add to a solid core. 

In pro sports especially, you’ve got to look at the big picture. It’s solid for the Bengals, especially if they nail the expected change at head coach and find a real leader to play quarterback next season. 

But, hey, tonight offers one more chance— probably the last of the Marvin Lewis era — to change all those narratives about prime-time games, the Steelers and contending in general. 

Can they get it done?... 

After a heart-breaking loss at Mississippi State on Sunday night, I guess we know for sure the narrative for Dayton basketball this season: The Flyers are officially in a rebuilding year. 

That was always likely given the loss of such a transcendent senior class (not to mention the coaching change), but I thought it was worth holding out hope they could skip some steps and be right there to contend again if some things came together quickly. 

I still like the talent of this team, but it’s going to need to mature and gel in order to get into the top third of the Atlantic 10. 

(They were picked to finish fifth.) 

They still have plenty of time to get things going in the right direction for conference play — everyone starting there 0-0 will really mean something for these Flyers — but there’s no need to worry about an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament now... 

The Rams finished out a 15-0 season with a 27-19 win over Dresden Tri-Valley in the Division III state championship game on Saturday night

That is one impressive program as Jeff Graham has carried on what Maurice Douglass started. 

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