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Preseason Power Rankings No. 18: Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears Introduce Marc Trestman Getty Images

After missing the playoffs in five of the last six seasons, the Bears showed Lovie Smith the door and decided to start a new era with a new head coach, Marc Trestman. Now it’s time to see how the team Trestman inherited fits with the system he plans to implement.

The good news for the Bears is that there’s abundant talent on both sides of the ball, and on special teams. There are a whole lot of Pro Bowl-caliber players on this roster.

The bad news is that the talent was assembled for a different coaching staff, and the Bears may have some growing pains under Trestman.

Our six-person PFT panel voted the Bears in the bottom half of the league, at No. 18. We explore the reasons below.


Say this for Lovie Smith: The guy knew how to build a good defense. Chicago’s defense was excellent last season, and although Smith and Brian Urlacher are gone, most of the personnel remains.

Cornerback Charles Tillman was one of the best defensive players in the NFL in 2012. He routinely took on the opposing team’s best wide receiver, and almost always got the better end of the matchup. It’s telling that in Calvin Johnson’s record-setting season with the Lions, two of his worst games came against the Bears, when Tillman led the way in holding Johnson to 34 and 72 yards. (Johnson averaged 133 yards a game in the other 14 games of the season.) With Tillman at cornerback, the Bears are in good shape against any wide receiver who comes their way.

The Bears’ defensive front seven is also strong. Julius Peppers is 33, but he doesn’t appear to be slowing down and is still one of the league’s top pass rushers. Chicago should be able to count on Peppers for double-digit sacks. Like Peppers, Lance Briggs will turn 33 this season but remains in fine form. Briggs started all 16 games and had another strong season in 2012.

Henry Melton has emerged as one of the league’s best defensive tackles, with six sacks last year and seven the year before. A former college running back who tips the scales at 300 pounds, Melton has a rare burst for a guy who’s big enough to play defensive tackle in the NFL, and at age 26 he’s in the prime of his career.

The Bears have a very good pair of offensive skill position players in wide receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Matt Forte, both of whom are among the best in the league at what they do. Marshall is a tough and physical receiver who has long been Jay Cutler’s favorite target, and Forte is versatile enough to be both the Bears’ No. 1 running back and their No. 2 receiver.


After Marshall, the Bears don’t have any proven commodities at wide receiver. They’d love to see last year’s second-round pick, Alshon Jeffery, become a solid No. 2 receiver. They’d also love to see Earl Bennett, who plays very well at times but also disappears at times, become a more consistent part of the passing game. But until someone steps up, No. 2 receiver has to be considered one of the Bears’ weaknesses.

Tight end has been a weakness for the Bears the last couple of years, when Kellen Davis averaged barely more than one catch a game. The arrival of Martellus Bennett should make Chicago better there, but Bennett is a long way from elite.

The Bears’ offensive line has long been a weakness, and the No. 1 priority of the offseason was shoring that up. That’s why guard Kyle Long was Chicago’s first-round draft pick, and why left tackle Jermon Bushrod was Chicago’s first priority in free agency. The biggest issue with the offensive line being a weakness has been that it has exposed Jay Cutler to injuries, and backup quarterback has been a major weakness for the Bears. That remains the case this year: If Cutler goes down, Josh McCown will step in, and that’s a significant drop-off.


By far the biggest change is the arrival of head coach Marc Trestman, who’s been coaching the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League for the last five years. Trestman has plenty of experience on NFL coaching staffs, but he hasn’t been with an NFL team since he was on the Dolphins’ staff in 2004. It’s not often that NFL teams reach into the CFL ranks for their head coaches, and it will be fascinating to see whether Trestman — who has a reputation as an innovative offensive mind — comes in with fresh ideas that take NFL defenses off guard.

The changes to the coaching staff are also significant, particularly on defense, where Lovie Smith and his Tampa 2 disciples are giving way to Trestman’s new defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker. But Tucker and Trestman have both said that they plan to run very similar schemes to what the Bears have been running during Smith’s time with the team.

The retirement of longtime middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is a major change in the appearance of the defense, but it’s not a change that will have a huge effect on the field. Urlacher was once among the NFL’s best defensive players, but he was noticeably slower last season and didn’t have a lot left. The unfortunate thing about Urlacher’s departure is the way it happened: The Bears decided early in the offseason that they didn’t want him back, while Urlacher didn’t determine until later in the offseason that he was ready to walk away from the game. Urlacher was a great player who deserved the opportunity to say goodbye to the Bears on his own terms, and it was disappointing that it didn’t quite work out that way, as it did for Ray Lewis in Baltimore.

Camp Battles.

Replacing Urlacher at middle linebacker will fall to either D.J. Williams, the former Bronco signed in free agency, or rookie Jon Bostic, the second-round draft pick from Florida. Neither one of them is going to step right in and be the kind of player Urlacher was at his best, of course, but it’s easy to picture either player being an upgrade over the 2012 version of Urlacher.

As a first-round draft pick, Kyle Long is penciled in as a starting guard, but he’ll have to compete to earn the job. Derek Dennis, Edwin Williams and James Brown will all get an opportunity to beat out Long. Matt Slauson, who started all 16 games at guard each of the last three years for the Jets, is expected to be the other starting guard.


How well does Jay Cutler fit in Marc Trestman’s offense? And can Chicago’s offensive line keep Cutler healthy for 16 games? Those are the biggest questions facing the Bears this season.

Defensively, the Bears should look much like they looked last year, and that’s a very good sign. And the special teams, with punter Adam Podlesh, kicker Robbie Gould and returner Devin Hester, should be solid. There’s a lot of reason for optimism there.

But last year the strong defense and special teams weren’t enough to get the Bears into the playoffs thanks to a disappointing offense, and unless Trestman can make significant progress offensively, the Bears will probably fall just a bit short of the playoffs again this year.

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Giants answer after Bills pull within a score in fourth quarter

XXX during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York. Getty Images

The Giants blew double-digit fourth quarter leads in the first two weeks of the regular season and they’re going to have to find a a way to avoid a third late-game meltdown in Buffalo.

Karlos Williams caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor with just under 10 minutes to play to pull the Bills within 16-10. The Giants are a bit lucky that it isn’t closer because Dan Carpenter joined the parade of underwhelming kickers by missing a 30-yard field goal earlier in the second half.

The Giants also stuffed the Bills on the goal line earlier in the fourth quarter, so they’ve shown some spine during a second half that saw the Bills take control of the momentum of the game even as they remain behind on the scoreboard.

After forcing quick Giants punts on their first four possessions of the second half, the Bills defense broke down after Williams’s score, though. Rashad Jennings broke a tackle and went 51 yards for a touchdown on a short pass from Eli Manning and a successful two-point conversion has them back up 24-10.

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Cordarrelle Patterson gets another chance to show what he can do

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, one of three first-round picks in 2013, has yet to justify his draft status. On Sunday, he’ll get another chance to show what he can do.

Starter Charles Johnson is out due to injury, and slot receiver Jarius Wright is banged up. That should give Patterson more opportunities.

The bad news for Patterson? With Johnson, the guy who took Patterson’s starting job in 2014, out for Sunday, Adam Thielen not Patterson gets the start.

Through three games, Patterson has only one catch for three yards. Apparently Patterson doesn’t see that lack of production as cause for showing the team something more.

I don’t know how much more I need to prove,” Patterson said Friday, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Plenty is what Patterson needs to prove, especially with the Vikings facing a May 3 decision on whether to pick up Patterson’s option for 2017. At this point, there’s no way they’d squat on Patterson for another year.

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Hoyer replaces Mallett, leads TD drive

Denver Broncos v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Texans are finally on the scoreboard in Atlanta and trail the Falcons 42-7.

That touchdown came after the Texans benched Ryan Mallett and replaced him with Brian Hoyer. In Week 1, Hoyer was benched in a blowout loss to the Chiefs and Mallett has been the starter since.

Hoyer came in and led a scoring drive capped by a touchdown pass to C.J. Fiedorowicz that helped the Texans avoid a shutout. It’s been a miserable day for the Texans in every aspect of the game.

Mallett completed 12-of-27 passes for 150 yards. The Texans missed a field goal late in the first half and really never threatened otherwise.

The Falcons are going to be 4-0. The Texans are going to be 1-3 headed into a short week of preparation for Thursday night’s game with the Colts.

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Joe Philbin “not at all” worried about job security

Miami Dolphins/New York Jets during the game at Wembley Stadium on October 4, 2015 in London, England. Getty Images

When the Dolphins went to London last season, they beat the Raiders in what turned out to be Dennis Allen’s final game as Oakland’s head coach.

The Dolphins’ trip across the pond didn’t work out nearly as well this year. They lost 27-14 to the Jets in a game that never felt as close as that final score indicates. Before the game, there were reports that the futures of both coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle were in jeopardy with another bad performance.

Philbin met with team owner Stephen Ross after the loss and said that he wasn’t concerned that he was about to get the same welcome home present that Allen received last year.

“No, not at all,” Philbin said, via “I’m worried about getting this team straightened out and fixed and getting our team ready to play the Tennessee Titans.”

Philbin said it wasn’t time to panic, a message he also sent after the team was routed by the Bills in Week Three, which fits with his plan to keep Coyle in charge of the defense. Philbin confirmed that there was a defensive meeting this week between players and coaches about changes to Coyle’s scheme, but said that it was not “contentious” in reference to reports about Coyle’s future.

Ross didn’t speak to the media, so we don’t know if his plan for the staff involves more changes than Philbin is expecting.

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Panthers catching breaks, Brindza, leading Buccaneers 31-10

On a day of bad football in Tampa, the Panthers are at least lucky to be lucky.

They’re getting breaks left and right to lead the Buccaneers 31-10 in the third quarter, including turning their own turnover into a score.

Backup tight end Ed Dickson just plucked running back Jonathan Stewart’s fumble out of mid-air and rambled 57 yards for a touchdown, with the Buccaneers seemingly confused as to what was happening around them.

That’s reasonable, the way the day has gone for them so far.

Bucs kicker-for-now Kyle Brindza has missed a pair of field goals and an extra point, points which might help on a sloppy day. Brindza has now missed five of his last seven field goal attempts, which could make him an endangered species in Florida soon.

The Panthers then got another Ted Ginn touchdown reception, and appear to be on their way to an easy win for a change.

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60 percent of San Diego starting offensive line out for Sunday

San Diego Chargers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Chargers head home after losing a pair of road games. They’ve also lost three fifths of their starting offensive line.

Center Chris Watt, left guard Orlando Franklin, and left tackle King Dunlap (pictured) all are inactive. They’ll be replaced by Trevor Robinson, Kenny Wiggins, and Chris Hairston, respectively.

Also out with injury for the Charters is starting safety Jahleel Addae.

The 1-2 Chargers host the 1-2 Browns at 4:05 p.m. ET.

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Caleb Sturgis struggling in Eagles debut, but he’s not alone

Chip Kelly, Caleb Sturgis AP

Even when things go well for the Eagles today, there’s something amiss.

And a week after welcoming kicker Caleb Sturgis, they may be back in the market sooner than expected.

Sturgis missed a 33-yard field goal attempt just before halftime, and then missed a 33-yard extra point after the Eagles finally made a play on offense in the second half.

They barely got to celebrate Riley Cooper’s 61-yard touchdown, a rare moment of offensive competence, when Sturgis missed the point after, leaving them down 13-6 in Washington.

The Eagles made a few big plays in the first half, with DeMarco Murray popping a 30-yard run and Sam Bradford hitting Nelson Agholor for a 45-yard gain. But Agholor also fumbled away a reverse attempt, which was kind of emblematic of their day.

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Rib, finger injuries sideline Browns CB Joe Haden

2015 Cleveland Browns Mini Camp Practice Getty Images

A week after suffering a rib contusion while Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper was running circles around him, Browns cornerback Joe Haden will be inactive against the Chargers.

The Browns had listed Haden as probable with rib and finger injuries. A team spokesman told PFT that Haden is inactive due to the injuries despite the probable listing.

With Haden and top nickel corner K’Waun Williams (concussion) out, the Browns have to try to keep up with Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and the Chargers with second-year man Pierre Desir starting and Justin Gilbert, a 2014 first-round pick who has yet to play a defensive snap this season, likely in the rotation.

Safety Tashaun Gipson will start for the Browns. He had been questionable with a groin injury. Backup safety Jordan Poyer could see some time at cornerback with Haden and Williams out.

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Bills offense nowhere to be found in first half

XXX during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York. Getty Images

The Bills came into Sunday’s game averaging over 33 points and 370 yards per game, but their offense has been stopped cold by the Giants.

Buffalo picked up two first downs and 78 yards against the Giants defense in the first half and a Tyrod Taylor interception set up a Giants touchdown that helped them to a 16-3 lead after two quarters. Taylor is 6-of-13 for 36 yards overall in a shaky performance that hasn’t been helped by some shaky hands in his receiving corps.

Unlike their offensive success, the Bills have carried their problems with penalties into Sunday’s game. They’ve been flagged nine times, helping the Giants to their second touchdown with three on one drive. Cyrus Kouandjio, playing left tackle with Cordy Glenn out with an ankle injury, has committed two false starts and tight end Charles Clay was penalized for offensive pass interference to wipe out a first down.

The Giants have capitalized on Buffalo’s mistakes and have not made any of their own while building a two-score lead. Eli Manning is 13-of-22 for 107 yards and two touchdowns and their backs have picked up 65 yards on 14 carries behind a line that’s kept the Bills defense in check so far this afternoon.

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Texans fail to get off the bus, trail 28-0 at half

Bill O'Brien AP

The Texans are in Atlanta, but they’re not really in the game with the Falcons.

It’s 28-0 at halftime. The Falcons are doing pretty much whatever they want to do on offense and have been good defensively, too, forcing two turnovers. Desmond Trufant returned the first one, a fumble, 24 yards for a touchdown.

The fumble happened when Arian Foster ran into a teammate and the ball popped in the air. It’s been that kind of afternoon.

Foster is back after missing the first three games, but the Texans still seem to be a team searching for an identity and any positives from which to build. The defense is supposed to be good but is getting gashed by Devonta Freeman. Matt Ryan has been efficient, too. Barring a total change of fortunes, Ryan might get the fourth quarter off.

Freeman racked up 134 all-purpose yards in the first half.

The Falcons are trying to get to 4-0. The Texans look like they’re headed for 1-3 and into a miserable short week of preparation for Thursday night’s game with the Colts.

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Joe Lombardi seems to blame predictability on stolen signals

Detroit Lions Training Camp Getty Images

One of the big stories from the past week came from Lions receiver Golden Tate, who said opposing defenses in every game have said that they knew at times what Detroit was doing on offense.

Tate later tried to say he wasn’t criticizing offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and Rodney Harrison of NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk criticized Tate for raising such concerns publicly.

Lombardi, in his weekly press conference, had an interesting explanation for the situation.

Everyone’s signals sometimes get stolen,” Lombardi said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “So I’m sure it’s happened, yeah.”

But defenses can know what offenses are doing without stealing signals — especially when there are no signals because the quarterbacks now get the calls directly into their ears. The concern is that the Lions have too many tendencies and tells, making it easier for defenses that have spent the time studying game film to know what’s coming based on formation, down, and distance.

While what happens after the snaps is more important than what happens before it, defenders who know what’s coming after the snap are in much better situation to stop it.

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Giants jump out to 13-point lead

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 04:   Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks to throw against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills were sizzling against the Dolphins in Miami last week.

They’re fizzling back at home against the Giants in the first half this week. Rueben Randle caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning with 10:42 left in the second quarter to give the Giants a 16-3 lead. The Bills did plenty to help the Giants to that score.

Jerry Hughes was flagged for a personal foul to hand over 15 yards, but the Bills held to force a field goal attempt that was wiped out because Kyle Williams covered the center on Josh Brown’s try. The Giants took the five yards for a first down and cornerback Ronald Darby was penalized for holding a couple of plays before Randle’s touchdown to gift the Giants another one.

Manning also threw a touchdown to Dwayne Harris in the first quarter that was set up by a Devon Kennard interception. Kennard outfought Charles Clay for a ball on the sideline, adding to Tyrod Taylor’s rough start. He’s 2-of-8 for 10 yards and the Bills have just 36 yards on offense thus far.

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Jason Peters questionable to return, and the Eagles could use him

Jason Peters AP

The Eagles have issues on offense anyway, and now they’re forced to adjust on the fly.

Left tackle Jason Peters has left the game with a quad injury, and has been announced as questionable to return.

The Eagles have had issues on offense all day, trailing Washington 13-0. Midway through the second quarter, they’re stuck on 25 total yards, and minus-3 yards passing.

And that total includes a 30-yard run by DeMarco Murray in his return from a hamstring injury.

Suffice it to say it’s a slow-starting team, as they haven’t scored a touchdown in the first quarter this season, and look nothing like the polished offense Sam Bradford ran during his limited preseason work.

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Michael Crabtree heads to locker room with ankle injury

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree catches a pass during NFL football minicamp, Wednesday, June 10, 2015, in Alameda, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) AP

The good news for the Raiders’ passing game is that Amari Cooper continues to look great. The bad news is that Michael Crabtree is hurt.

Cooper caught a 26-yard touchdown pass on a nice throw from Derek Carr today in Chicago, and Cooper is continuing to look like the real deal and a rookie of the year candidate. The Raiders got a good one when they drafted Cooper.

But Crabtree, the Raiders’ No. 2 wide receiver after Cooper, suffered an ankle injury and headed to the locker room. The team said he’s questionable to return.

Also out for the Raiders is cornerback T.J. Carrie, who suffered a chest injury.

The Raiders made the extra point after their touchdown while the Bears missed theirs, so it’s Oakland 7, Chicago 6 in the second quarter.

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Devonta Freeman scores twice, Falcons lead 14-0

Devonta Freeman AP

After rushing for three touchdowns last week, Devonta Freeman posted two touchdowns Sunday in the first 16 minutes.

The Falcons lead the Texans, 14-0.

Freeman scored from 16 yards out in the first quarter and from 23 early in the second quarter. He’s also caught four passes for 37 yards early.

The Falcons will keep feeding him until the Texans can stop him. He ran for a career-high 141 yards last week and also caught five passes.

Freeman had 248 rushing yards and one touchdown last year as a rookie backup.

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Two Eagles defenders questionable, as Washington leads 6-0

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

There are many questionable things about the start of the Washington-Philadelphia game, including a pair of Eagles defensive starters.

Already, cornerback Byron Maxwell (quad) and linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) are questionable to return after picking up injuries in the first quarter.

Washington is sort of taking advantage, putting together a pair of good-looking drives, both of which stalled and forced them to kick field goals for a 6-0 lead.

Washington’s outgaining their division rivals 127 yards to minus-8 at the moment, as the Eagles have yet to show much.

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Dolphins lose game; does Philbin lose job?

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Before Sunday’s Jets-Dolphins game in London, reports emerged that both coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle are in danger of losing their jobs. It’s possible that the team leaked that information to see how the team would respond to the news.

If so, they didn’t respond well.

The score doesn’t scream “embarrassment,” but closer inspection revealed the kind of ugliness the Dolphins were surely hoping to avoid against the Jets, especially with the players knowing that the failure to show up could get Philbin shown the door.

It was 20-7 at halftime, and 27-7 early in the second half. After that, it felt like both teams were going through the motions.

The best argument to keep Philbin is that there’s really no one else who is suited to take over. Coyle is under siege, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor isn’t far behind. Bringing in a guy like Mike Shanahan or bringing back a guy like Mike Sherman is intriguing, but not practical.

Either way, something needs to happen to get the Dolphins back on track. With one win in four games and four of the final five games of the season at home, the Dolphins could be playing only against friends and family members in December. If their friends and family members will even be willing to show their faces at the games by then.

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Panthers turn two Buccaneers turnovers into a 10-0 lead

Jameis Winston AP

Panthers cornerback Josh Norman isn’t resting on his player of the month honors from September, and is off to a strong start in October.

Norman just intercepted a Jameis Winston pass and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Panthers a 10-0 lead on the road.

It was Norman’s second pick-six of the year, and continues a torrid pace for the pending free agent.

It’s also a sloppy start for the Bucs, with quarterback Jameis Winston fumbling a Joe Hawley snap on his first possession, which the Panthers turned into a short field goal.

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Ereck Flowers leaves after one play on injured ankle

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 20:  Ereck Flowers #76 of the New York Giants blocks  Vic Beasley #44 of the Atlanta Falcons during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants got left tackle Ereck Flowers back in the lineup for their Week Four game against the Bills, but only for a moment.

Flowers missed last week with the ankle injury that forced him out of the team’s Week Two loss to the Falcons and he was back on the bench after the first offensive play against Buffalo on Sunday. The team is calling him questionable to return, but it certainly seems Flowers needs a bit more time before he’s going to be healthy enough to make a permanent return to the offensive line.

Justin Pugh moved over the left tackle and John Jerry took over for him at left guard for the rest of the Giants drive. It ended with a Josh Brown field goal after two incompletions stopped their momentum.

The Giants defense has forced a pair of three-and-outs, leaving the score 3-0 with a little over eight minutes to play in the first quarter.

UPDATE 1:32 p.m. ET: Flowers has returned to the game with four minutes to play in the opening quarter.

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Bengals strike quickly, again

Cincinnati Bengals v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The 3-0 Bengals are one of the NFL’s hottest teams, and that continued on Sunday’s first drive.

Andy Dalton went 4-of-4 for 67 yards, and in an even more encouraging sign Jeremy Hill scored on a 8-yard run to give the Bengals a 7-0 lead over the Chiefs.

Hill has been slumping, so the Bengals have to like his early contribution. This is an offense that has a lot of weapons, and after Dalton threw to Tyler Eifert on the game’s first play he hit A.J Green three times for 51 yards. Green had 220 receiving yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns last week and is playing as well as any receiver in the NFL.

The AFC North is pretty much a mess. The Bengals have a real opportunity to create some separation.

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