1. The Bengal's defense is talented no doubt, but they’re too young to be called elite. True of False?
BRANDON SCOTT: They’re old enough to be in the NFL and make Tom Brady look pedestrian out there. It’s a top 10 defense through five games and we’ve already watched them work against the Packers and Patriots. What will be interesting to see is how far an elite defense can take them, with such an unassuming offense to compliment it. We’re looking at you, Andy Dalton. Ask the Texans defense what being elite gets them when the QB can’t get right.
KHALID SALAAM: They are certainly talented enough for the regular season. The issue is, we haven’t seen this defensive group win a playoff game yet and so, the questions will remain. There is a difference between being “good” and “elite,” and I like to see a team set a bar of consistency before I give them that status. They are however, certainly trending upwards. Guys like Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict pop off of the television screen with their talent. So do I consider them elite? I’ll call them “elite-ish” and wait for the rest of the proof. They only have one more high-powered offensive team on their schedule (Detroit), and limiting them will go a long way in defining their 2013 ceiling. That said, this is a top three defense already, as I’m sure Tom Brady will agree.
RICHARD BOADU: False. Elite doesn't have an age requirement. They're geniuses in this world that aren't even 18 yet. The Fab Five went to two straight Final Fours, so the Bengals can be called elite regardless of their youth. Technically, they aren't all that young because their starting 11 on defense averages 5.9 years of experience in the league.
2. For teams like the Giants and Steelers, with winless records but recent legacies of greatness, is it possible for the average fan to comprehend the notion that it’s not always about benching the QB or firing the coach? Or is ignorance just in the nature of fans?
SCOTT: The definition of fandom is delusion and overreaction. Fans typically aren’t rational people, especially once they’ve set a certain expectation and the team fails to meet it. That being said, it’s hard not to look at the coach when a team underperforms the way the Steelers and Giants have. Pittsburgh ran into some bad luck with injuries, and maybe a not-so-good hire in offensive coordinator Todd Haley. That mess in New York would be difficult for the smoothest of smooth-talkers to explain.
SALAAM: Both actually. I don’t accept that fans and their fanaticism are by nature inferior in the rationale department. I think people in sports behave much the same way people do in regards to politics. The majority of the people don’t bother to learn the details or aren’t sophisticated to understand them, so they rely on what others tell them. Often that “others” is media people like us, who do a disservice to those out there fighting the good logical fight, by appealing to the lowest common denominator as much as possible. People can learn, but they have to be given the correct information.
BOADU: No, the average fan isn't going to understand that firing the coach or benching the QB isn't always the right answer. Fan is short for fanatic, not expert. Now there are intelligent fans out there, but they are few and far between.
3. Does that win by Green Bay over Detroit count as a NFC North statement game?
SCOTT: Not too much more than the Packers just handling business at home. The Lions get another crack at them Nov. 28th at Ford Field. This was to be expected, so the only statement made was that they weren’t about to have us talking about how the window closed on them, just five games into the season. Had the Lions won, that absolutely would’ve been an NFC North statement.
SALAAM: I know it shouldn’t count and that it’s a bit early for “statement games,” but it fits the definition. The Packers are supposed to be a legit contender, with Super Bowl aspirations. But the NFC North is stacked, and getting through it is going to require more than just Aaron Rodgers arm. For the early part of this season, GB has looked vulnerable, while Detroit and Chicago have impressed. I know Megatron was out in Sunday’s game, but the Packers D still played well. That must continue for them to have a real shot at winning the division.
BOADU: Not in the slightest. For a team with one of the top 5 QBs in the league, the Packers only put up 22 points. Also they held the Lions to 9 points and Calvin Johnson didn't play either. CJ81 has been averaging a touchdown a game this season. If Johnson plays the score is possibly 22 - 16 at least...so yeah, 22-9 win is not a statement win at all.