Category Archives: John Huang

Pro Football – Bengals – Inefficiency, Ineptitude, and Injuries—By Dr. John Huang

Denver Broncos’ Phillip Lindsey scores in 1st half – Photo by Brendon Miller – BSN

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – The last time A.J. Green was on the football field, the Bengals were 5-3 and still riding the coattails of a promising start to the season. Since that time, they’ve dropped four in a row, lost their starting quarterback to a thumb injury, and are barely staving off mathematical playoff elimination.

Against the Denver Broncos, the 7-time Pro Bowl Wide Receiver was back on the field—for just over a quarter. He had one catch for 7 yards…and then the unthinkable happened. A.J. Green left the game with a right foot injury. He was carted off the field, holding his head in his hands, as his helpless teammates, stumbled, bumbled, and fumbled their way to a 24-10 soul-sapping defeat. Cincinnati is now 5-7, with playoff hopes on life support after having lost six out of their last seven games.

Jeff Driskel, replacing the injured Andy Dalton and making his first NFL start at quarterback, finished 25 of 38 for 236 yards with a touchdown and a pick and was sacked 4 times. Joe Mixon rushed 12 times for 82 yards, while Tyler Boyd led the team in receiving with 6 receptions for 97 yards. The Bengals beleaguered defense made an all-star out of Broncos undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay who ran wild for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns on the afternoon. Having 100 yards in penalties and three turnovers certainly didn’t help the Bengals’ cause, but when Green went down early in the second quarter, what little air the team still had was symbolically sucked out of the stadium.

I like A.J. Green. In the two years I’ve been covering Bengals Football, he’s always been professional, courteous, and fair in his dealings with me. Win or lose, it seems he’s always sitting for interviews and patiently answering questions. I’ve never seen him raise his voice or become irked by inane queries. In fact, he speaks so softly that you frequently must strain to hear him over the usual locker room chatter. His work ethic is relentless.

As the consummate teammate, Green spent the last four weeks encouraging his cohorts to stay like minded and focused. “I just tried to talk to some of the younger guys and the older guys just stay together, stop pointing fingers. Everybody can go down once you have a losing season and a lot of people start to point fingers,” he said. “For me, we all have to stick together. We are all in this together. We are all losing together. Nobody is winning. End of the day we just must go back to the drawing board and look ourselves in the mirror and go out there and practice hard. Try to do your job, that’s the biggest thing and everything else will take care of itself.”

Those are powerful words, especially coming from the lips of your best player. The fact that they’re so soft spoken belies their impact. Literally, everything about A.J. Green is impactful. After being chosen as a USA Today High School All-American receiver at Summerville High School in Summerville, South Carolina, Green continued his star-studded football career at the University of Georgia, where he attained college All-American honors before being selected as the fourth pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft by the Bengals. Now in his 8th professional season, he’s had just over 600 receptions, is nearing 9000 receiving yards, and stands at the pinnacle of his profession.

AND NOW THIS HAPPENS. I know that injuries are part of the game, but A.J. Green deserves better. He’s spent his whole career laboring for a team mired in mediocrity and steeped in poor management decisions. Honors are nice, but you have to wonder what would happen if he played on a real contender. After losing in the first round of the playoffs during each of his first five seasons, the Bengals are now in danger of missing the playoffs altogether for the third year in a row. Despite a beautiful December afternoon with record-setting high temperatures, Paul Brown Stadium was only half filled. The “average Joe” fan is way past incredulous. Even the most hearty, supportive, and optimistic fans are voicing their doubts.

What happened to A.J. Green today was indicative of the Bengals’ season to date. The major difference is that his toe injury wasn’t self-inflicted. “We shot ourselves in the foot it seemed like with the penalties we had today,” Coach Marvin Lewis said in his postgame presser. “We took back offensive plays, offensive possessions, throughout the day. That really set us back on offense when we’ve had good positive plays…obviously we can’t drop a punt, and then we allow a 60-yd touchdown run. It boiled down quickly to about 3 plays in the football game.”

The Bengals’ woes lie much deeper than just failing to execute on 3 plays. I’m not sure what the quick fix is, but everyone’s tired of the constant inefficiency and ineptitude. Injuries to team-leading studs like A.J. Green only add fuel to the growing Queen City dumpster fire. For the Bengals’ sake, let’s all hope for a quick and complete recovery. After hitting rock bottom, it’s time to start putting the pieces back together again.

Dr. John Huang covers the Cincinnati Bengals for Bluegrass Sports Nation and Sports View America. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Pro Football – A Bengals Thanksgiving

Bengals fall hard to Browns – Photo by Mike Cyrus – BSN

John Huang – 11-25-18 – Bluegrass Sports Nation

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – In this season of Thanksgiving, as far as football is concerned, Bengals fans don’t seem to have much to be thankful for. A 35-20 beatdown by divisional rival Cleveland has everybody scratching their heads. With the loss, Cincinnati not only essentially eliminates itself from playoff contention, but also continues its free fall as laughingstock of the league. Like I said, the gratitude cup isn’t necessarily overflowing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to win the Super Bowl. (OK—maybe just once in the half century of franchise existence would be nice.) I’m just looking for respectable seasons where coordinators aren’t replaced like used paper towels, where 4-1 starts don’t disintegrate into 6-10 finishes, and where management doesn’t continually settle for mediocrity. I don’t want my defense setting modern day era records by yielding over 500 yards in three straight games. I don’t want to have to pin all my false hopes on Hue Jackson returning as assistant coach and savior. I don’t want to expend my heart and soul cheering for a team that I know will not reciprocate.

How ugly was it at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday? It was butt ugly. Granted, the Bengals defense resembles a MASH unit—but they couldn’t stop my grandmother. The game was essentially over by halftime as the Browns moved the ball up and down the field with impunity to the tune of a 28-7 lead. Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield looked like Otto Graham—directing his team to 296 total net yards in the first half alone. Predictably, boos cascaded from the stands as fans filed out in droves—an understandable mass exodus back into their fantasy world of Super Bowl dreams.

This Battle of Ohio ended in unconditional surrender. Cincinnati waved the white flag early, relinquishing their starting quarterback (Andy Dalton left the game in the 3rd quarter with a thumb injury), their pride, and maybe even their head coach. Mayfield ended up 19-26 for 258 yards and 4 touchdowns on the afternoon.

For the Bengals, Andy Dalton was 10-17 for 100 yards and a touchdown. His backup, Jeff Driskel, performed admirably, completing 17-29 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown in less than a half of action. He also ran for the Bengals’ final score as the game wound down. Joe Mixon rushed 14 times for 89 yards and caught 7 passes for 66 yards. Tyler Boyd and John Ross both caught lone touchdown passes accounting for the Bengals’ other scores.

When pressed on the slow start, Coach Marvin Lewis was predictably exasperated. “I think I’ve said it both three or four times over, it’s a matter of guys got to relax and do their jobs,” he said. “Just execute your assignment…We got to bear down. We got to bear down and relax. We don’t have to press. We just got to bear down and relax and get it done. I got to do my job. We got to do a better job. I got to prepare them better. They got to go out and they have to execute their jobs better. It rests squarely on me.”

Now that’s a scary thought. Despite the carnage, fans should remain ever thankful. It’s still just a game—a pleasant distraction and temporary respite from the grind of everyday life. Plus, it’s more than just the football game itself. I’m thankful for tailgating, for the smells and tastes of burgers and brats on the grill, for opportunities for fellowship with like-minded fans. I’m thankful for Marlana Vanhoose belting out a rendition of the National Anthem as only she can, while a packed stadium of 56,122 listens on in awe. I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch the game in climate-controlled comfort while snacking on a smorgasbord of gourmet delights.

A prominent sign displayed in the upper deck of the stadium said, “PLAY HARD and HAVE FUN.” The Bengals did neither today, but Bengals fans everywhere—despite their team’s turmoil—do manage to play hard and always have fun. I’ll add one more phrase to the banner up high—BE THANKFUL. After all—even as a Bengals fan—it is the season of Thanksgiving.


Dr. John Huang is a columnist for Bluegrass Sports Nation, Sports View America, and Nolan Group Media. He’s currently working with former LEX18 sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at Be sure to follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Pro Football – Afternoon Delight – By Dr. John Huang

Dalton tries to shrug off a tackle – Photo by Brendon Miller – BSN/SVA

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – The Bengals’ 37-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers served as a bit of a bounce back from their drubbing a week ago in Kansas City. Unlike the prime time embarrassment against the Chiefs, Cincinnati’s offense looked spiritedly viable as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead before a predictable Tampa rally tied the game late. Randy Bullock’s 44-yard game-winning field goal as time expired gave Coach Marvin Lewis a hard-fought win over his old college roommate, Dirk Koetter. The Bengals defense was in a generous mood throughout the afternoon, surrendering a whopping 576 total yards, but also garnering four interceptions and five sacks along the way.

I’m giving credit not only to Bullock’s kick, but also to the one o’clock kickoff. The early-afternoon effort generated just enough fire to keep the embers of hope burning for success this season. The win improves the Bengals’ record to 5-3, a game ahead of the Ravens and percentage points behind the Steelers in the divisional race. Cincinnati has an upcoming bye-week, giving their walking wounded a chance to heal up for the second half sprint.

“Obviously we wish we had played better in the second half and made the game a little bit easier than having to drive down and kick a field goal with no time left,” quarterback Andy Dalton said in his postgame presser. “We had too many three and out drives, so from that standpoint, it’s disappointing. But we won. To be 5-3 now is huge.”

Dalton, consistent with his performance during non-prime time contests, was a respectable 21-34 for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tyler Boyd continued his outstanding season with a 9-catch, 138-yard, 1 touchdown performance. Joe Mixon had 2 touchdowns of his own while accumulating 123 yards on 21 carries.

So why the uptick from last week? You know if this game had been played in prime time, the Bengals would have blown it at the end. Put this game under the bright lights, and they would have surely self-destructed while the rest of the nation looked mockingly on. The past indignity has been well documented. Cincinnati has lost thirteen out of sixteen on Sunday nights alone, including nine straight. They’re 6-15 in prime-time night games since 2011, when coincidentally, Dalton came into the league. Marvin Lewis, coincidentally, is 0-7 in his playoff tenure. It’s gotten to the point where big-game embarrassment and heartbreak is expected by fans who deserve better.

The reality is that the Bengals aren’t cursed or snakebit. The cold hard truth is that they’ve just never been that good. They’ve always been a franchise steeped in mediocrity. Prime time games are usually played against quality opponents that are consistently better than what management puts out on the field. As much as fans like to imply, it’s not solely a matter of Marvin or Andy choking away the big ones. They’re both OK—mediocre at best. There’s a big game, prime time pecking order, and unfortunately, the Bengals are middle of the pack. Count on them throwing up a clunker playing Kansas City under Andy Reid in prime time at Arrowhead, but—as everyone witnessed today—they’re still fully capable of occasionally squeaking out a victory versus Tampa Bay under Dirk Koetter in the afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.

Speaking of Dirk Koetter, I asked Marvin how he manages his emotions when coaching against friends. “I play against somebody every week,” he answered dismissively. “Dirk and I are obviously closer, but we play against somebody every week. I play against Sean (Payton) in a week. I played against Andy (Reid) last week. These guys have been friends for a long, long time. That’s just part of coaching and being in this as long as I have. Every time we go out there, we know the guy. But we’re in a business to win, just like they are. That’s part of it.”

The rest of the schedule bodes well for Marvin. Fortunately, there are no more prime time meetings scheduled between him and his friends.

Dr. John Huang covers the Cincinnati Bengals for Bluegrass Sports Nation and Sports View America. He’s currently working with former LEX18 sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Bengals Football – Oh No, Not Again—By Dr. John Huang

Mixon ties game for Bengals – Photo by Brendon Miller for BSN

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – For the Cincinnati Bengals, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers has been likened to a recurring nightmare. To say that the series has been one-sided is probably a bit of an understatement. When you lose the last 7 in a row, 10 out of the last 11, or 15 of the last 18—and when your head coach is 8-25, including 2-16 at Paul Brown Stadium with a pair of embarrassingly freakish playoff losses—the word domination seems much more appropriate.

On a misty, dreary Sunday afternoon, the horrific dreams continued as Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on a 31-yard TD pass with ten seconds left in the game for another unfathomable 28-21 Steeler victory. Whether heart-stopping or heart-breaking, the loss drops the Bengals season record to 4-2, and leaves their legion of long-suffering fans wondering what they did to deserve such prolonged misery.

“It’s frustrating to lose games at home, particularly division games,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said when asked about any personal frustration he feels losing time and time again to their hated rivals. “We lost this one today. We just got to rebound back. We don’t get a chance to whine about it or whatever. We gotta get ready to go…It’s unfortunate we lost the game today, but we got another one in Kansas City come Sunday night.”

There were no 24-point fourth-quarter comebacks needed in this one as Cincinnati clawed its way back from only a six-point deficit late in the game. When Joe Mixon plowed into the endzone from four yards out with a mere 1:18 left on the clock, visions of a streak-busting celebration appeared briefly on the fog-shrouded horizon. According to the well-known script, however, we all knew it wasn’t to be. Big Ben, when left with too much time to throw and too much time on the clock, will ultimately deliver the dagger that pops all your party balloons.

For the afternoon, Andy Dalton completed 26/42 passes for 229 yards and 2 TDs. Tyler Boyd continued his breakout season with 7 receptions for 62 yards and 2 TDs. Joe Mixon led the team in rushing with 64 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. The Cincinnati defense, which won the game against Miami last week, gave up 481 total yards and couldn’t make the crucial stop when it needed to.

In sports—even on the professional level—the mental aspects of the game frequently play a huge role. A smart opponent will try to get into your head, looking for the possibility of gaining any slight advantage. I daresay the Steelers, for the past decade, had successfully burrowed into the Bengals’ brains—leaving them gasping game after game as if hexed, cursed, and jinxed by the terrible towel waving hordes from Steeler Nation.

How else could you explain the Monday Night meltdown from last year, when the Bengals blew a 17-0 lead? Or what about in 2015, when the Bengals were poised to post their first post-season victory in twenty-five years, only to fumble and bumble their way to an embarrassing 18-16 loss? Rewind another decade, and thoughts of Kimo von Oelhoffen’s season-ending hit on Carson Palmer only adds to the harrowing narrative of anybody old enough to remember.

My hope was that the ignorance of youth would be the key to the success of this year’s Bengals—that they’d be too young for historical scars to affect their psyches. After all, thirty-five of the players on this year’s fifty-three-man Bengals roster are younger than 25. Nineteen of them are in their first or second season. Thus far this campaign, some of the biggest plays have been from the Bengals’ kiddie corps, especially on defense. Clayton Fejedelem, Sam Hubbard, Jessie Bates, Nick Vigil, Carl Lawson, and Jordan Willis have all contributed one way or another to the Bengals’ wins. Unfortunately, they may now just be another generation of players who continue to lose to Pittsburgh—a footnote in the record books for consecutive losses and decades of pain.

“We’re better than them,” Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said afterwards, when asked about another loss to the Steelers. “They ain’t better than us. Period. They ain’t better than us; we’re better than them. I’m gonna be a team player…they went out there and they fought. They got the win; we got the loss.”

And so it goes.

Dr. John Huang covers the Cincinnati Bengals for Bluegrass Sports Nation. He’s currently working with former LEX18 sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

UK Men’s Basketball – I Love My Team—By Dr. John Huang

Big Blue Madness 2018 – Photo By Mike Cyrus – BSN

Although we didn’t hear him say it directly, John Calipari apparently still loves his team. During the most recent Kentucky Basketball Media Day, the UK head man repeatedly professed his adoration for his talented squad of young superstars. Just as he did with John Wall, Anthony Davis, Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Tyler Ulis, Coach Cal waxed eloquently about the merits of this year’s Wildcats—hereby officially sending fan expectations soaring into the Big Blue stratosphere.

“When you don’t have to coach effort,“ Cal said. “When you don’t have to coach the enthusiasm, the passion you have to play with. When you don’t have to coach a competitive spirit…I don’t have to coach that with this team. So now you know what you’re coaching? Basketball. So now you coach basketball. And I love coaching basketball.”

Before you start making reservations for the Final Four in Minneapolis, realize that Cal’s teams haven’t always matched up to the preseason hype. The 2013 NIT team—with the unfortunate injury to Nerlins Noel—obviously fell short of True Blue expectations. Other Calipari teams–such as his most recent one featuring Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander—simply ended up lacking the star power needed to make a significant run. The point being that star-studded recruiting classes don’t automatically translate into national championship juggernauts right out of the gate.

Don’t worry, though—I’m not pooping on this year’s parade. This mix of mega-talented recruits and critical returning lettermen appear to be on par with Coach Cal’s best Kentucky team to date—the 2015 thirty-eight and one group that fell just a couple of games short of perfection. Why is this current team potentially as good as that one? Let me count the ways.

First of all, the return of PJ Washington is HUGE. The 6’8”, 228-lb power forward declared for the 2018 NBA draft, but decided to come back to school not only to improve his draft stock (and free throw shooting), but with the hopes of winning a national championship. After leading the team in rebounding and averaging double figures in scoring last year, PJ gives the Cats the bona fide, experienced leader they so desperately need. Together with a new and improved, rim-protecting Nick Richards, Kentucky’s inside presence suddenly moves from liability to strength.

Adding to that presence, graduate transfer Reid Travis joins the party. Talk about a fortunate get. The First Team All-Conference selection averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds last year playing for Stanford in the highly competitive Pac-12. Not only is Reid an experienced and skilled low-post player, but he’s also one of the most articulate interviews I’ve ever encountered. His pre and postgame eloquence will be worth five points alone. I’ll look forward to some verbal sparring with him in the season to come.

Shooting has always been one of Team Calipari’s bugaboos. Cal’s first Kentucky team, the 2010 squad, was arguably his best. But they couldn’t throw it in the ocean and ultimately fell victim to West Virginia in the regional finals. You might say that outside of Doron Lamb and Devin Booker (for about a month), Calipari really hasn’t had the benefit of any dead-eye shooters.

All that promises to change this year. Word has it that Jemarl Baker Jr., if he ever gets a clean bill of health, will be as accurate a knock-down shooter as anyone who has previously worn the blue and white. Tyler Herro, who’s sure to be a fan favorite, and returning sophomore guard Quade Green, have also both shown that they can consistently tickle the three-point twine. Gone are the days of opponents cheating down low, daring Wildcat bricklayers to chuck up air balls.

So far, so good you say? I haven’t even mentioned the most explosive portion of Kentucky’s arsenal. Incoming freshman Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, EJ Montgomery, and Keldon Johnson are all multi-talented five-stars that can run, jump, pass, and shoot. Of the four, Johnson comes in with most hype, but all of them may be talented enough to enter the pantheon of John Calipari’s growing list of one and dones.

It gets even better. All those guys take pride in their defense—being able to hassle you endlessly to the point of despair.” Ashton is a pit bull, a mauler on the ball,” Calipari gushed. ”You can play he and Immanuel together. Tyler’s better than I thought he was. I thought Keldon would be better than Tyler defensively, but I’m not sure of that. And our big guys can guard guards, so we can switch everything, we can scramble around, we can still press. There’s a lot of stuff we’re going to be able to do.”

One final point to get you salivating. Everyone knows how important team chemistry is. Elite and talented superstar teams with infighting and jealousies seldom taste success. Initial reports indicate that this year’s team is feasting on brotherhood. Calipari’s servant leadership lessons have already taken hold. Throw in their on-the-court jump start with the Bahamas exhibitions, and you’ve got the makings of one of the most exciting and fun-to-watch UK teams ever assembled. A legitimate run towards Championship Number Nine should be anticipated and expected.

Will it happen? It’s still a bit too early to tell. But from what I’ve seen and heard so far, they’ve got as good of a chance as anyone. With a couple of favorable breaks, Minneapolis in April seems like a distinct possibility.

“Well, if this team becomes empowered and it becomes their team, then this becomes scary,” Cal warned. Come to think of it, you might just want to make those hotel reservations after all.

Dr. John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Media Group, Bluegrass Sports Nation, and Sports View America. He’s currently working with former LEX18 Sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

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Pro Football – Flashback to Glory – By Dr. John Huang

Bengals roll to 2-0 with win over Ravens – Photo by Brendon Miller – BSN

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – Cincinnati’s 2018 home opener against the Baltimore Ravens went much better than planned. Not only did the Bengals defeat their AFC North divisional rivals to go 2-0, but they did it in impressive fashion in front of a Thursday night national television audience on a special occasion honoring their 1988 Super Bowl team. The 34-23 victory before the 50,018 fans in attendance sparked memories of yesteryear and rekindled hopes for the remaining season to come.

The 1988 Super Bowl team—coached by Sam Wyche and led by quarterback Boomer Esiason—was the last one to make even a ripple in the postseason during the past three decades. Since that time, the Bengals have gone through a lot—not much of it good. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of postseason futility in the history of the NFL. Marvin Lewis is 0-7 in the postseason in his fifteen years as head coach.

It was the best of times—1988 that is. “Do I think about that? All the time,” said owner Mike Brown. “That’s what’s in my mind. I know the feeling you’re talking about, and I want us to somehow come back and grab onto that again. It’s the best of times, and some of that is what keeps me plugging along here.”

For a franchise steeped in mediocrity, the Bengals appear to be making noticeable efforts to capture past glory. Everyone agrees their offensive line was horrendous last year, as the team finished last in the league in yards gained. By drafting center Billy Price from Ohio State with their first-round pick, acquiring left tackle Cordy Glenn in a trade from Buffalo, and signing right tackle Bobby Hart, the Bengals front office shows that they’re serious about moving back toward the preeminent days of Anthony Munoz and Max Montoya.

Against the Ravens this evening, the 2018 Bengals offensive line provided outstanding, sack-free protection for quarterback Andy Dalton. The second-round draft pick from TCU, entering his eighth year as a pro, was on fire, completing 24-42 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns. His three quick touchdown tosses to A.J. Green by the thirteen-minute mark of the second quarter brought back memories of Boomer Esiason connecting with Eddie Brown. Remember that Esiason passed for 3,572 yards and 28 touchdowns in 1988—numbers that Dalton could easily surpass with games such as this.

The offensive line also blocked well for running back Joe Mixon. The second rounder from Oklahoma had 21 carries for 84 yards in what he hopes will be a breakout second season. Can Mixon surpass 1988 running backs James Brooks and Ickey Woods, who together accounted for over 2000 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing and receiving during that magical season? He and backfield cohort Giovani Bernard have a ways to go this year before matching those lofty numbers.

On the defensive side of the ball, it’s out with the old and in with the new—well sort of. Cornerback Adam “Pac-man” Jones and linebacker Kevin Minter are gone, replaced by linebacker Preston Brown, safety Jessie Bates, and defensive end Sam Hubbard. Still anchoring this defensive unit, however, are stalwart defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins, both of whom signed multi-year contract extensions right before the start of the season. The duo should provide a solid foundation for Teryl Austin’s defensive unit looking to make its mark in the year ahead.

For the game, the defense did just enough to win. Safety Jessie Bates intercepted Joe Flacco on the Ravens’ second series, setting the stage for the Bengals’ first touchdown and an eventual 21-0 lead. Behind Flacco’s arm (32/55, 376 yards, 2 TDs), Baltimore battled back, cutting the deficit to 28-23 with 9:35 left in the game. Leading by eight with less than three minutes to go, a Shawn Williams forced fumble on a scrambling Joe Flacco effectively ended Baltimore’s chances. Although forcing two interceptions, Cincinnati gave up 425 total yards on the evening. Perhaps All-Pro nose tackle Tim Krumrie from the 1988 team could shed thirty years to return and help out.

Whether or not the 2018 Bengals can channel the greats of thirty years past remains to be seen. “We knew they (the 1988 Super Bowl team) were going to be coming back,” Dalton said after the game. “Obviously to play in Super Bowls is something that you dream about doing. It’s what you work so hard for. Yeah, that’s the goal, is to win the Super Bowl and come back and be honored for it.”

Undefeated out of the gate, the Bengals already find themselves atop their division. They’ll hope to continue their winning streak with upcoming road games at Carolina and Atlanta in the next couple of weeks before returning home to face the Miami Dolphins on October 7.

For long-suffering Bengals fans, a win over the Ravens is always sweet, but the Super Bowl still seems decades away.  

Dr. John Huang is a columnist for Bluegrass Sports Nation, Sports View America, and Nolan Group Media. He’s currently working with former LEX18 sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at Be sure to follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Cincinnati Bengals – Wake Me When It’s Over—By John Huang

Bengals took on visiting Colts 8-30-18 – Photo by Brendon Miller – BSN

(Cincinnati, Oh.) – Missed it by that much! With their last minute 27-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium, the Cincinnati Bengals finished the 2018 preseason at 3-1. A 28-yard pass from Phillip Walker to Cobi Hamilton with just over a minute to go ruined the chance at a perfect preseason. What does a 3-1 record actually mean? Probably nothing, as preseason performance has never been a reliable indicator of regular season success.

There’s seldom anything in sports more meaningless for fans of an NFL team than the fourth preseason game. By this time, the excitement of seeing new faces in training camp has long worn off, and everyone can’t wait for the real season to begin. The starters never play in this pointless exhibition, wisely unwilling to risk injury in games that don’t count. Subdued fans in a half empty stadium end up watching a bunch of players they’ve never heard of grind it out on the field. In other words, it’s boring. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted these games “don’t rise to NFL standards.”

So why am I here? Why is anybody here? According to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, the preseason is always about evaluating talent. It’s about getting talented, young athletes—vying for their livelihood—out onto the field to see what they can do. “It’s what it’s all about,” Marvin said, when I asked him earlier if, after fifteen years, he still enjoyed the preseason games. “It’s fun. It’s great to see our young guys go out and play.” Marvin then continued in detail about the gameday exploits of Joe Mixon, John Ross, Mark Walton, C.J. Uzomah, and Carl Lawson. What’s more, he talked about them with excitement, enthusiasm, and a smile on his face—so opposite to the curt and stoic responses we’ve all grown accustomed to. At least he seemed to be having fun.

Conditioning also plays into these preseason games. Players routinely use these contests to get into shape, testing their stamina in game type situations. Supposedly, the Bengals are implementing new offensive and defensive schemes this year, so they’re utilizing these games for added benefit. They also have a lot of new personnel on their roster—a roster that needs to be trimmed to fifty-three in the next few days. On the surface, there appear to be plenty of good reasons to play preseason games.

Who are we kidding? The real reason these games are played is because of the M-O-N-E-Y. With the in-game attendance and television contracts, these games remain as big-time revenue producers. In a sport where teams only play eight games in their billion-dollar stadiums, I guess it helps to have two more preseason games that don’t count on the schedule. It’s always puzzling to me how the league harps so much on player safety while adding 240 extra minutes of meaningless football each preseason in which the players could get hurt.

Alan Cutler, who hosted the pregame, postgame, and halftime shows on the Bengals Radio Network for the past fifteen years was a bit more direct. “One of the biggest jokes in our American sports society is preseason football,” he said. “The NFL teams rip off fans by selling the preseason and regular season games together as a package. No one would pay full dollars for these preseason games.”

Besides ticket packages, television revenue for sixty-five additional preseason games isn’t chump change either. When questioned about that aspect of the NFL cash cow, Cutler was even more outspoken. “Although TV ratings are lower for preseason games, just having the games on television allows the networks to make tons of money when selling it to their advertisers,” he said. “It’s a money scam at the expense of the fans. It’s also not healthy for the players.”

It’s easy to rant at a substandard commodity, but what’s the fix? “Add a couple of players to the roster each year,” Cutler expounded. “It would give more players fewer snaps per game which could help injuries and improve the product. There has already been a lot of talk about expanding the regular season to eighteen games. With the health of the players being a HUGE issue—and it should be—starting the season a week earlier in order to give teams a second bye makes perfect sense. But the NFL doesn’t want to start the season on Labor Day weekend because not as many will be watching on TV.”

On a Thursday night in August, 39,520 fans (the announced attendance) were watching in Paul Brown Stadium. I tallied an additional 79 journalists and media types covering the game on press row. Unfortunately, I also counted nine players who went down during the game with injuries—including Bengals second string quarterback Matt Barkley who left the game in the first quarter with a left knee injury. That alone is reason enough to stop this insanity. It’s time to shorten the preseason. I wouldn’t mind if it were abolished altogether.

Next week, it’ll be the Cincinnati Bengals versus the Indianapolis Colts once again. This time, at least, it’ll be for REAL.

John Huang is a columnist for Bluegrass Sports Nation, Sports View America, and Nolan Media Group. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

New Boss Same as Old Boss—By John Huang

Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis – Photo by Ron Hamblin

(CINCINNATI, OH) – When Roger Daltrey of the British rock band The Who, belted out those iconic words “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss,” he may have been referring to Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. Likewise, when Bill Murray, the lead character in the hit movie Groundhog Day, woke up to the exact same routine day after day, he was probably channeling Bengals owner Mike Brown. Lewis and Brown have now been dancing together for the past 15 years. For die-hard Bengals fans, if the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” then Brown keeping Lewis on board after another disappointing campaign is sure to drive many in the Queen City absolutely crazy.

For the 2018 NFL football season, Marvin Lewis returns once again as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. But that’s not all. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict will be yet again serving a four-game suspension, and tight end Tyler Eifert remains forever questionable as he recovers from offseason back surgery. As far as the Bengals are concerned, it seems as though the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In the team’s pre-camp luncheon last month, Brown was asked about bringing Lewis back after two consecutive losing seasons (6-9-1 in 2016 and 7-9 in 2017). “It’s a very sturdy relationship,” he said. “We know each other. We’re comfortable with each other. I think he can right our ship this year and go forward the way we want.”

That sounds exactly like an owner comfortable with mediocrity. Lewis hasn’t been horrible in his 15-year stint. A 125-112-3 record and seven playoff appearances, including five straight from 2011-2015, isn’t something long-suffering fans should ever take for granted. But neither is it something Super Bowl dreams are made of. Lewis told me last year that his goal every year is the Super Bowl. For a coach who has never won a playoff game, he’s got some ground to make up before he makes a believer out of me.

It’s hard to glean much from your first pre-season game, but if the Bengals 30-27 victory over the Chicago Bears in Paul Brown Stadium tonight is any indication, perhaps there is hope after all. A 33-yd touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel to Auden Tate with 2:04 to go in the game capped an exciting Cincinnati comeback.

Offensively, the starters looked smooth and efficient. Andy Dalton was 6 for 8 passing, for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns. This team should be able to score. Remember, last year the Bengals offense finished last in the NFL in total offense and 26th in points per game. Let’s hope the first half tonight is a harbinger of good things to come, as offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s machine finally cranks into high gear. Running back Joe Mixon moved up everybody’s fantasy draft board, while the speedy wide receiver duo of A.J. Green and John Ross are sure to cause headaches for many in the opponent’s secondary.

On the other side of the ball, Paul Guenther seems like a distant memory. Under his leadership last year, the Bengals ranked 18th in yards allowed. Worse yet, they were next to last in takeaways with a measly 14. New defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, swoops in from Detroit for the timely rescue. Last year, the Lions were 9th in the league in total defense and had 32—more than double—the number of takeaways.

“We flew around pretty well,” said Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap. “Things happen in the regular season that can set you back, but it’s how you respond and reset that determines whether or not you’ll be able to do what you want to do. This was a good preseason test.”

A nice preseason opening night crowd of 35,633 went home happy and entertained—if not with Super Bowl visions dancing in their heads, at least with the hopes of changes for the better coming from the top down throughout the organization. Perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part, but I sensed a definite desire for creativity amongst the entire Bengals coaching staff. If the talent is there, sometimes you just have to shake up the schemes to maximize your chances of success.

“We’re doing a lot of things differently,” Mike Brown elaborated. “I don’t think the public understands that. We have put in a whole new offensive system. We’ve put in a whole new defensive system. When you do that in pro football, that’s big. But that goes under the radar because it isn’t the head coach.”

The head coach is still Marvin Lewis. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. How much things change from here on out remains to be seen.   

 John Huang is a columnist for Bluegrass Sports Nation, Sports View America, and Nolan Media Group. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Coach Bobblehead—By John Huang

Before we begin a Sports Alert for you:
John Huang will be the guest host of Morning Tip Off WKJK1080 (also on iheart) at 8 am this Wednesday, August 1. Leading off for The Leach Report and Kentucky Sports Radio.

Stoops Bobblehead – Photo submitted by John Huang

(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – The term “make or break” is far too often used to describe a season poised on the slippery slope of either astounding success or demoralizing failure. Once again this year, a tortured Kentucky football fan base is perched precariously on such a slope—with emotions running high and patience running low. Whether he likes it or not, head coach Mark Stoops finds himself in that proverbial make or break year entering his sixth season at the Wildcat helm. A 26-36 (12-28 SEC) won-loss record and back-to-back bowl appearances is nothing to scoff at, but neither is it something that will put talk of buyouts and hot seats to permanent rest. This is the year to poop or get off the pot, fish or cut bait, win big or strike out. Continue reading Coach Bobblehead—By John Huang