By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

I saw more from the Cincinnati Bengals that I liked last Sunday night than I disliked.

Carson Palmer is a big-time quarterback. He made several throws under pressure against the Jaguars that were spectacular. Cincy's running game is legit, too.

Cincinnati's defense has a few holes. The secondary is mediocre at best; the front four, besides potential star Justin Smith, is below average; and the Bengals' linebackers are just OK.

The Bengals will be decent whenever their offense gives them to a lead and allows Marvin Lewis to take some risks with his defense.

Bottom line: The Bengals were overhyped, but they're better than I originally thought.

Sorry to disappoint you if you thought I was going to gloat about picking the Bengals to lose at Jacksonville. As the foremost authority on all things NFL, I'm embarrassed that the editors of this column screwed up and subtracted a point from each team on my prediction.

Here are 10 more NFL truths:

10. In Tampa's disgusting loss to the New York Jets, Brian Griese reminded me why I predicted he'd be a flop as a starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

Brian Griese
A little contact goes a long way with Brian Griese.

Griese's heart pumps Kool-Aid.

The outcome was determined in the game's first 10 minutes, when the Jets attacked Griese with a relentless pass rush, sacking him three times. Thanks to a fumbled punt, the Buccaneers led 3-0 after one quarter. But Tampa's offense never had a chance after Griese absorbed an early beating.

Griese never challenged the Jets downfield. He was too concerned about a potential pass rush to look for receivers more than 5 to 7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He was never sacked again the rest of the day, but the early message to Griese allowed Herm Edwards and his defensive staff to sit back in short zones and wait for Griese to make mistakes.

Griese's favorite target was cornerback Ty Law, who should've had three picks. He settled for one.

If you ever wonder what makes Tom Brady the NFL's best quarterback, watch Brian Griese play and then watch Brady. Football is a contact sport. Griese is afraid of contact.

9. You don't have to be Michael Vick to run the ball effectively from the quarterback position.

Do NFL quarterbacks realize a 3- or 4-yard run and hook slide is better than an incompletion?

Mark Brunell absolutely threw away a nice Redskins rally because he refused to jog in a two-point conversion. Rather than waltz around left end for two points and the tie against Denver, Brunell threw a hopeless, harmless fling into the end zone at the end of Washington's two-point loss to the Broncos.

Unless there are 15 unimpeded yards in front of them, it takes a court order to get a lot of NFL QBs to run 4 yards upfield and fall down.

8. Brian Billick has not "lost control" of the Baltimore Ravens.

Billick and his inept offense have frustrated Ravens defenders to the point that they're cracking under the pressure of having to carry Billick's quarterback-handicapped offense.

That's not an excuse for the 21 penalties and two ejections the Ravens endured during their embarrassing loss to the Lions. It's just a statement of fact. Ray Lewis and the rest of Baltimore's defenders have been under enormous pressure for years. I feel sort of sorry for them.

7. Al Michaels and John Madden had too much class to say it Monday night, but I don't: Jeff Triplette and his officiating crew tried to sabotage a terrific football game.

It took every bit of restraint Madden could muster to avoid shredding Triplette during the telecast of Pittsburgh's 24-22 victory over the San Diego Chargers. The game featured 20 penalties, including a flag on damn near every special-teams return.

At one point, Madden said that all the yellow flags were not a reflection on Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Cowher and their two teams. Madden's point was that two talented, well-coached teams shouldn't be getting flagged on every fourth play.

Triplette's crew started on the opening kickoff and never stopped. Triplette, the man who tagged Orlando Brown in the eye with a flag, is a clown. However, the league needs to examine the way it officiates kickoffs and punts. There are way too many penalties on special teams, and the flags slow the game and undermine excitement.

6. It appears the New Orleans Saints are making the most of the built-in excuse the media handed them after Hurricane Katrina.

That's right. I blame the media for New Orleans' 52-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Saints have been told by the media that they can lie down and play like dogs this year because of Katrina.

Rather than feel sorry for the Saints, I feel they're blessed. They have jobs. High-paying jobs. They can rebuild their lives. They have a well-financed, highly influential organization helping them get through Katrina. They can and should play better football than they did Sunday.

But they won't because they've been told they can stink this year.

5. Now that Jerry Rice has retired, there's an obvious question no one is asking: Are NFL receivers the most despicable, classless athletes in all of sports?

Chad Johnson
Chad Johnson's never dull, that's for sure.

Of course you have Terrell Owens and Randy Moss leading the way. There's no reason to elaborate on those two. Let's don't forget Rae Carruth, who is currently doing a bid for killing his baby's mama.

Then there's T.O. wannabe Chad Johnson, who fails to realize that we're laughing at him, not with him. Johnson's T.O. impersonation is rather embarrassing. It's the equivalent of watching Ricki Lake try to become Oprah.

Last weekend Keyshawn Johnson reminded everyone why he was run out of New York and Tampa. Me-shawn ripped into Drew Bledsoe, who made the mistake of telling Me-shawn not to fumble the football.

After the game, Me-shawn had the audacity to say: "I'm not the type of person to point fingers at anybody, and I don't want anybody saying anything to me."

I guess Me-shawn forgets selling out Tony Dungy and Warren Sapp after a Tampa playoff loss to the Eagles.

4. Someone might want to tell CBS's Steve Tasker that John Elway, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Joe Montana and Lawrence Taylor all played in the National Football League.

During the Lions-Ravens game, Tasker said that Ray Lewis had more impact on his organization than any one player has ever had on an organization.

Ray Lewis is a good football player. He's a Hall of Famer, an all-time great. But John Elway carried the Denver Broncos for nearly two decades, dragged them to five Super Bowls and enabled Denver to build a brand-new football stadium.

Call me when Ray Lewis wins another playoff game.

3. Speaking of phone calls, could someone tell Fred Smoot to call me at 816-234-4869 before his next party?

In case you missed it, Smoot Doggy Dogg allegedly threw a phat, Hugh Hefner-style party for the Vikings during their bye week. The police investigation hasn't quite wrapped up, but initial reports suggest that Smoot Doggy Dogg and 17 teammates rented two boats and lots of nursing students paying their way through school with couch dances.

Smoot Doggy Dogg's love boat reportedly set sail for a three-hour-and-30-minute tour, but docked after 40 minutes because of complaints from the shocked sea men and women operating the boats.

I guess that answers any questions about what young millionaire athletes do with their free time.

2. Gary Barnett and his Colorado Buffaloes are capable of upsetting Texas.

Barnett might be the best coach in the Big 12. What he accomplished at Colorado last year, leading the Buffs to the Big 12 title game, after suffering through an investigation and suspension, was more impressive than leading Northwestern to the Rose Bowl.

Texas is also capable of sleepwalking through this game. CU-UT has upset written all over it.

1. If Indy's defense is for real -- and I'm beginning to reluctantly think it is -- then you'd have to credit Colts general manager Bill Polian with constructing a perfect team and cementing a reputation as the best GM in sports.

Polian built the Super Bowl Buffalo Bills. He then went to Carolina and helped the Panthers reach the NFC Championship Game in their second year of existence. Now it appears Polian might be ready to out-do himself, constructing a team without weakness in the salary-cap era.

Indy obviously has a marvelous offense. The Colts also have solid special teams with kicker Mike Vanderjagt and punter Hunter Smith. If their defense is legit, then we're talking about an all-time great team. Maybe the best team of the salary-cap era.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at Jason can be reached by e-mail at


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