The dreaded bye week is a dangerous and strange thing.
It can make or break a team, depending on the mindset of the players and the coaches. The Cincinnati Bengals have just experienced their bye week and are back to work. The AFC North leading Bengals are 6-0 and have a date with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, in Week 8.
If a team has been hit by nagging injuries, the bye week can be a necessary time of healing. For a team that is in the funk of a losing season, it can be a time to regroup and find out what’s causing problems. But, for the Bengals, it could be a two-headed monster.
The Bengals have been on a roll and are dominating their opponents. The chemistry is there and that has turned into a franchise tying six consecutive wins to start the season. That’s where the concern comes in. Since Marvin Lewis has been the head coach, the Bengals have gone 4-7-1 after the bye week. Last season the bye produced a loss to the New England Patriots. They were spanked 43-17, in a lopsided contest.
Coming back from the bye week takes focus. The Bengals will need to direct all energies to the current week. The Steelers are coming off of a trap game loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Tackle Andrew Whitworth said, via Yahoo Sports, that the bye week really isn’t a concern.
”You almost have to have that feeling that it’s Week 1 and we’ve got to find ourselves and play well and get through the ups and downs. And there’s going to be some of that – that’s just the nature of it.”
There’s definitely something to the energy and focus part of the bye. Though Whitworth says it doesn’t matter, the AFC North shows a big discrepancy in the teams that are doing well. Since 2003, Pittsburgh and Baltimore sit on top of the division with almost identical 11 win records, after the bye. The Bengals are behind the Browns who have a 5-7 record. It may seem like it doesn’t matter, but the numbers seem to tell a different story. Sunday could be interesting.
On the upside, the Bengals are waiting on the return of Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He took the field at Monday’s practice and looked good. But, he’s still not in top football condition. Though Burfict was not involved in the main practice, he did participate in conditioning exercises on a side field, while the rest of the team practiced.
”There’s some matchups and different things you can do with a player like that,” Guenther said after practice. He’s one of our best players when he’s in there. It’s no different than having a top running back or a top receiver. Your plan changes. Certainly when he gets back, it will be good.”
Burfict is definitely a game changer. But, he hasn’t seen action in almost a year. He’ll have to be slowly worked back into the flow of the defense. He’ll have to build speed and timing. He may look well just running at top speed, but little things like cutting and lateral movement can cause issues.
It’ll be tempting for the Bengals to bring him back, looking at his impressive resume. They’ve also been doing well without him. Vincent Rey has been a monster at the position in his absence.
The high-powered Bengals offense has been awesome against opponents. Dalton has looked good so far and the entire team has been healthy. There’s no need to rush anyone back, but there is a need to do something about that first game after the bye.
[Feature Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images]