CINCINNATI -- The Kansas City Chiefs are laughing, right?
For the first time this season, brash Bengals receiver Chad Johnson has put his teammates on the spot by guaranteeing a victory -- over the NFL's only undefeated team, no less.
The Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) are counting on Kansas City to take it the
"They'll probably get a few laughs out of it and just come in
and try to play their game," linebacker Kevin Hardy said Monday.
They certainly have incentive to play one of their best games.
Johnson violated protocol by giving the unbeaten Chiefs reason to
feel slighted. As soon as the Bengals finished a 34-27 victory over
Houston, he repeatedly guaranteed that the Chiefs will get their
first loss of the season next Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Chiefs have noticed, though they don't plan to fire back.
"We don't need to inspire our opponents any more than they need
to be inspired," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said Monday. "We try
to make very rational, classy statements and always reflect
positively on our opponents."
That's how most coaches prefer it. That's also why some of
Johnson's teammates were wondering why he did it.
Why stir up a team that has yet to lose a game?
"Well, he's just excited," Hardy said. "Obviously he hasn't
been in this situation a lot in his NFL career, and he let his
emotions probably get the best of him."
Actually, it was calculated.
Twice last season, Johnson made waves by guaranteeing wins. His
first prediction came true in a 38-3 win over Houston, but the
Bengals lost to the Browns in the other game.
He has toned down the rhetoric under coach Marvin Lewis, who
doesn't approve of trash talking. Johnson warned him last week that
he was in the mood to stir things up again.
"He guaranteed me last week that he was going to do that,"
Lewis said Monday. "I just told him about what goes along with
that -- responsibilities."
The Bengals are aware that if they back up Johnson's boast,
they'll get some of the national attention they've craved. The
NFL's worst team since 1991 hasn't had many opportunities to grab
the spotlight for anything other than losing.
"It's going to be a great opportunity," offensive guard Eric
Steinbach said Monday. "It's exciting to have Kansas City in here.
It would be great to knock them off and be the team that beats the
Chiefs, who were 9-0 and having a great season."
A win also would bring the Bengals a long-awaited measure of
respect. At 5-5, they'd have their best 10-game mark since 1990,
the last time they had a winning record and made the playoffs.
The question is whether Johnson's guarantee will focus the
Chiefs' attention on a game they might otherwise take lightly. The
teams haven't played in 10 years, leaving no room for rivalry or
bitter feelings -- until Johnson spoke up.
"They probably don't take us seriously," Hardy said. "When
they looked at their schedule, as they're probably looking at it
right now, they're looking past us."
Maybe. Or maybe the guarantee will get their attention.
"When I was at the Rams and we played Cleveland in Cleveland,
somebody said they were going to come in there and beat us,"
Vermeil said. "I don't know what the score was, but it wasn't