CLEVELAND, Ohio — Three quick Bengals-Browns pregame observations and such…
1. Joe Thomas plays his 100th game today. He’s never missed a snap.
He’s a warrior. And a stud. And someday he’ll be in the Hall of Fame discussion.
Drafting hasn’t been the Browns thing — though drafting between third and seventh certainly has — but they got that one very right. Thomas is still playing at a high level and deserves better. Maybe, sooner than a bunch later, he’ll get it. He was great last week in the Browns first win of the season and will need another big game today.
He won’t likely see James Harrison much, but that’s good for Harrison, who has bullied a lot of bigger tackles in his outstanding career but never did much against Thomas.
2. However it goes, and however long this lasts, and even if he never starts another game, Brian Hoyer is starting a game in Browns Stadium today.
A Cleveland kid who grew up a season ticket holder, went to high school right over the bridge and has been dismissed a bunch is starting an NFL game 15 miles from his backyard.
That’s really cool. Really, really, really, really cool.
It’s a little too early to point out that the last time Rob Chudzinski was involved with an early-season QB switch here, that new QB found a stud receiver and a star tight end and got really hot, engineering a magical season.
It’s possible. It’s not likely. More than a few people are going to have chills when Hoyer gets introduced today, and rightly so. We’ll judge again at about 4:15, but he’s truly living an incredible dream.
3. The Bengals are 2-1, should be 3-0, and are coming off a win over the Packers that made the rest of the league pay attention.
If they’ve truly arrived and/or are prepared to have the season they want to have, they win today. Even without Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson.
There’s not much margin for error, and there are no more excuses. The chips are in, the standards are high (for a reason) and the pieces appear to be in place. There are questions — every team has them — and there’s a long, long way to go, but if the Bengals are going to eventually be anywhere near any discussion of the elite or the true contenders they can’t afford a step back or even a slight bump. It has to be forward with proven maturity and positive results.
The Ravens are giving nothing away. You have to think, though, that a couple weeks ago the Colts saw Andy Dalton as the quarterback of maybe the AFC’s second-best team and thought they might as well try and go win the thing. The Bengals no longer want to be outsiders or the hunters, and they need to handle their business accordingly.