Morning Stripes: Championship Week

Championship Week has arrived.

And no, the Cincinnati Bengals still aren't part of it.

As a matter of fact, only one Bengals opponent from this season still is in the running, and it's a team they played one of their better games of the season against. Rest assured, as they get ready for this weekend's AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos will be doing their share of scouting the Bengals' 13-6 win over the Patriots back in September.

Granted, the Patriots now are a much different team than they were back then, but there still may be a clue or two contained in that game film that might lead to shutting down Tom Brady.

In the meantime, from the Bengals' side of things, there are a few off-field items to keep in mind. Namely this one: Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's possible hiring at Minnesota. As ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday, Zimmer has earned a second interview this week with the Vikings and continues to exist as one of their top candidates.

Bengals fans, brace yourselves. The Mike Zimmer Show could soon -- within days if not hours -- come to an end in Cincinnati. If you caught our Bengals mailbag Saturday, then you see where I wrote that I wouldn't be surprised to see Bengals linebackers coach Paul Guenther promoted to defensive coordinator, or former Lions coach Jim Schwartz brought in, if Zimmer did end up leaving.

The Bengals just had one news conference to announce a coaching promotion Friday -- two promotions, in fact, if you include quality control assistant Kyle Caskey's bump to running backs coach -- and there could be another in the coming days.

Speaking of Caskey, we start off our Monday Morning Stripes with a look at the 35-year-old assistant coach:

  • This comes from Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson. Like the Bengals' on-field mantra all season, in the wake of a pair of offensive coaching changes last week, it was all about the "next man up" with Caskey's hiring. Much like the team itself, the Bengals apparently have some depth among their coaching ranks. We'll see in time just how good that depth is.

  • Wrapping up coverage from Friday's news conference introducing Hue Jackson as the Bengals' new offensive coordinator, Fox Sports Ohio's Kevin Goheen states the two things that ought to be Jackson's focus: Make quarterback Andy Dalton better, and get the Bengals over the playoff hump. The latter isn't so easy, but as we've seen, it is fully dependent upon the former. A great playoffs version of Dalton and the Bengals will certainly get over that daunting obstacle that currently is winning postseason football.