Andy Dalton is the red-headed stepchild of the high-drafted slew of quarterbacks in recent years.
OK, that works on a few levels because of the pigment of Andy's hair. But it's euphemistically true, as well, with much of the football-watching country doing its best to poke holes in his game and proclaim him not championship-worthy.
Keep poking, folks. All Dalton is doing is putting together a terrific season.
In the month of October, all Dalton has done is beat the Patriots (and outplay Tom Brady); lead an overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills; lead a game-winning drive in a three-TD, 373-yard performance at Detroit; and then Sunday, in the Bengals' 49-9 thrashing of the New York Jets, Dalton connected for five touchdown passes, four to emerging receiver Marvin Jones.
There are still the occasional hiccups. Such as Dalton's screen-pass INT to the Jets' Mo Wilkerson and his telegraph pick to the Bills' Jim Leonhard.
But Dalton has been mostly excellent of late. He finished 19-of-30 for 325 yards passing against the Jets, for an average of nearly 11 yards per attempt. Jones, who had 247 yards and three touchdowns coming into the game, totaled eight catches, 122 yards and four scores.
His accuracy has been much stronger. His plays downfield have been more common. He's not forcing the ball into A.J. Green's hands every play; the Bengals can win games in which Green catches three passes, as that happened on Sunday.
Not too many teams can drop 49 points on a Rex Ryan defense, even with the benefit of two Geno Smith pick-sixes, and a lot of that has to with Dalton's progression lately. He is making the same throws that Joe Flacco made during the Baltimore Ravens' championship run last season.
That's not to say that Dalton can't get better. But the Bengals — really — can get to a Super Bowl with him playing at this level. Over his past three games, all victories, he has thrown for 1,034 yards with 11 touchdowns and one INT.
The three games before the Week 11 bye — at Miami and Baltimore, and vs. Cleveland — are all winnable. And in the final five games, only one of the Bengals' opponents are currently in the playoff picture.
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