Originally written on WhoDeyFans  |  Last updated 11/5/14
This season is easily divided into two chapters, split at the bye week. The first was awful and better left forgotten, marred by ineffectiveness and missed opportunities. Fortunately, the second chapter has featured what would seem to be a completely different. And that is the team that will be making the trip to Houston in a few days. I’ve learned several things about this team as I’ve watched them over the past two months. Here are some of them. Feel free to add to the list. The defense can make life difficult on any team. We saw signs of it beginning against the Broncos, and they just kept building each week. They held more potent offenses like Dallas and Pittsburgh (who scored at least 20 points in each of their final six games except against the Bengals) to well below average and totally dominated the poorer offenses they faced. [That is very good news as they prepare to face a struggling Houston offense.] The offense is only as good as the protection that the offensive line provides. The line looked good when they faced more meager defenses, but they have looked meager against the better defensive lines that they have seen over the past four weeks. Dalton’s level of play has corresponded completely. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander has been getting praise for finding a guy like Trevor Robinson amongst all of the CFAs after the draft, but his line unit has to step up its play if the team hopes to break its 22 year playoff-win drought. [That's bad news as they prepare to face J.J. Watt.] Kevin Huber is a difference-maker. The guy flips the field as easily as Shaun White flips tricks on a snowboard. He set a new franchise record for average punt distance by a comfortable margin this year. And unlike Mike Nugent, he has no need to fear not being with the team in 2013. Andy Dalton is still a work in progress. And that is okay. Good quarterbacks often don’t find their full potential until their fourth or fifth season. Take Matt Ryan as an example, who is in his fifth season and has just broken into the top 10 this year. Dalton still needs some polishing, but he has shown enough to believe that he can be one of the better QBs in the league in a couple more years and can keep the Bengals competitive for a long time. The front office has some tough decisions facing them over the next few years. Making back-to-back playoffs is a direct result of the strong drafts that the team has had recently. But paying all of the talent they’ve found as rookie contracts begin to expire is not going to be easy. It won’t be this year, but soon we could see the team have to let go of guys we like a lot because they just can’t sign everyone and not bust the salary cap. As long as the team continues to draft well, being a source for free agent (instead of a destination as in years past) will actually be a good thing. (Could Marvin Lewis perhaps continue his streak of home run drafts as the team’s General Manager?) This team is finally built for sustained success. Hallelujah!
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cristiano Ronaldo nets hat trick, sets career high for goals

WATCH: Cormier tells Jones to get his s-- together

Fans holding 'Free Tom Brady Rally' at Gillette Stadium

Josh Hamilton to be activated by Rangers

WATCH: Top CB recruit makes insane catch doing backflip

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Biggest surprises of the MLB season

Marcus Mariota leads NFL in jersey sales for May

Report: Scott Skiles frontrunner for Magic coaching job

Shanahan: injuries are not why Robert Griffin III struggles

Kyle Korver ruled out for remainder of playoffs

Randy Moss attends cancer survivor's graduation

WATCH: Daniel Cormier gets into it with Ryan Bader

Jim Harbaugh compares his driving to Jeff Gordon's

WATCH: High school seals win with perfect hidden ball trick

Warriors crush Rockets in Houston to take 3-0 series lead

WATCH: D'Angelo Russell whiffs on horrible golf swing

Brian Matusz ejected for having foreign substance on arm

PHOTO: Don Cherry wears wild suit even for his taste

PHOTOS: Gigantic sinkhole at Jack Nicklaus golf course

WATCH: Memphis player catches defense sleeping, scores

WATCH: Astros turn around-the-horn triple play

French Open Women's preview: Who will make the quarters?

WATCH: Bryan Price gets ejected before game starts

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Eight biggest surprises of the MLB season

Bryan Price ejected before first pitch

Vin Scully narrates marriage proposal

Pats fan's obituary defends Brady

Marlins players skip own charity event

John Wall tells All-NBA Team voters to ‘keep sleeping’

Jim Kelly: No doubt Tom Brady cheated

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

Ex-players sue NFL for conspiring to push painkillers

Astros surprising, but can get better with Correa

Here come the Giants

Aaron Hernandez got new tattoo in prison

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.